SULPHUR SPRINGS (CBSDFW.COM) - Was it a poor attempt at humor, or something more serious? For the 8th year in a row, a group of North Texas teachers hand out "Ghetto Classroom Awards." Now, the educators claim they didn't know the term was derogatory.
This is all happening at Sulphur Springs Middle School, just east of Dallas.
School officials in Sulphur Springs say the so-called Ghetto Classroom Awards are both unacceptable and embarrassing. The family of one of the students handed such an award has another word: cruel.
Debra Jose's grandson was a recipient of one of the end of year awards. She said, "Tears just started falling out of my eyes. I was like, 'what did they just do to him again?'" Jose said she was so disturbed she couldn't rest. "I just lay in bed and thought about it all night long. I couldn't sleep very good. You want the best for children -- not just my grandchild -- but, every child."
The 14-year-old was in a class, with others who all have some level of learning challenges, when he received the so-called award. Jose says she thinks his teacher was making fun of him. "It's like you're putting them in a 'place,'" she said.
CBS 11 News asked Sulphur Springs Superintendent Michael Lamb what, exactly, is a Ghetto Classroom Award? He said, "It is not something SSISD is proud of. It is not acceptable. It is not anything we want to be a part of... and we are addressing it today."
The dictionary defines ghetto, in part, as "conferring inferior status or limiting opportunity."
When asked if he could appreciate how offensive and racist many in the community will see the presentations Lamb said, "Yeah, I can appreciate that… not much chance that anyone would see it any other way."
The Superintendent's response leads the Jose family to wonder about the hearts of the teacher heart that signed the award and the second teacher in the classroom who didn't object. "I just want them to help him... don't insult him," Debra Jose thought out loud. "Help him."
CBS 11 also noticed on one certificate that it was the 8th Annual Ghetto Classroom Award, which led us to ask how such a thing could have happened for eight years without anyone noticing.
"It's something this teacher did for six years in a prior district," says Supt. Lamb. "It went unnoticed." The teacher who signed the award worked those years as a Special Education teacher in the Carrollton Farmers-Branch school district.
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the district confirmed the teacher's prior employment. But, stressed that no administrator in the district was aware of any such award and had they known, the it would not have been allowed to continue.
CFB district officials now tell CBS 11 that they will investigate.
We were told the teacher who introduced the concept brought it with her from her prior employer: a school district in the Dallas area. CBS 11 is looking into that claim and will keep you posted.
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