New information about controversy at Howard High School
Principal Brown told WDEF, the controversy started last week when Hamilton County School District officials placed Band Director, Dexter Bell on suspension; a suspension that came down right before the parade.
"I had to make a decision on what to do with the band at that time. We don’t have an assistant band director. It’s a field trip during the school day. So again, it was poor timing, and there was no one else to lead our band. And that’s why the event was cancelled for the band," Brown said.
School district officials won’t discuss why Bell was placed on leave. WDEF was only told the disciplinary action is a result of something that was not school related.
By early Tuesday evening, frustration among students and parents became so high that many of them took to the streets in protest.
"Justice for Bell. Justice for Bell," was the chant many of them were saying while holding protest signs.
Band members who took part in the protest told WDEF they didn’t like the way the situation was handled.
"Two days before we were supposed to perform, Mr. Brown gets on the intercom without speaking to Mr. Bell or the band and says it’s cancelled," said Jessica Cummings.
The cancellation ended decades of back-to-back performances in the parade.
"Howard has been in the Armed Forces Day Parade for more than 65 years, and for the first time in history, Howard did not perform," said Keyche Benford who is a parent of one of the students who protested.
"We were angry to the point where kids were walking out of classrooms. Kids were writing on the walls; starting posters, campaigns and petitions because we were angry with Mr. Brown, Cummings said.
While talking to WDEF, Principal Brown wanted everyone to understand that he’s not responsible for Bell’s suspension nor does he have the power to place Bell on suspension.
"That’s a central office decision," Brown said.
Another issue protestors were angry about had to deal with money that was spent in preparation for the parade performance.
"You have to pay for the outfits. You have to pay for the signs that we have and all that money went to waste. That wasn’t money the school raised, it was money the band individually raised just for that event," Cummings said.