Between the global pandemic, the Trump era, and the stuff Republicans spew on a regular basis, the bar is high for describing anything as “surreal” or “bizarre.” With that in mind, an incident at a high school in Hazard, Kentucky, certainly fits the bill. What happened? As reported by Insider, Hazard High School was celebrating its homecoming week and included a “man pageant.” Photos from this pageant appear to show barely dressed students giving lap dances to teachers and staff, girls in Hooters-inspired outfits, and students and staff appearing to spank one another. Those photos have gone viral after being posted to the school’s Facebook page (yes, really).
That an event like this could happen while Republicans are stirring hysteria and hate over critical race theory (CRT) just adds to the sense of a bizarro world. And if you’re wondering what folks in the community think about the homecoming event, parents (somehow) fall on both sides of the issue.
The principal of the high school, Donald "Happy" Mobelini, who just so happens to also be the mayor of the town of Hazard, was not only present for the event but is captured in at least one photo. He appears to be participating in the festivities and laughing. It appears that the original Facebook photos have been removed, but screenshots have gone viral on Twitter.
Here’s one example:
One mother told local station WLEX that she wouldn’t want her son “involved” in such actions. Another community member spoke to the outlet and said the event didn’t represent pageants and was “demeaning.”
Jenna Smith, a parent with children who attend school in the district, said the adults in the room should have stopped the event once they realized students were underdressed. Smith told LEX 18 she feels adults should have told students they knew it was a joke but that it had to stop because it wasn’t appropriate. She (accurately) pointed out that giving or witnessing a lap dance is not an activity appropriate for children.
On the flip side, Hollie Layne, who has a son who she says participated in the event, told the same outlet she thinks it’s just “teenagers being teenagers.” She added she thinks it’s been “taken completely out of context” and that photos don’t show teachers “pushing the children off of them.”
According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, district Superintendent Sondra Combs has apologized for the incident and said “disciplinary action” has been taken. She’s also said they are investigating the situation. According to Combs, this tradition has gone on for years and has never before been an issue. Combs also did not specify who was disciplined.
Oh, and the principal? According to WYMT, court records show Mobelini and two teachers from the high school were sued in 2019 by a former student over allegations they did not properly chaperone a school trip to Washington, D.C., and New York City. During this 2017 trip, a student was allegedly raped by another student. A trial is scheduled for August 2022, and Mobelini and the other teachers named have asked for the suit to be dismissed.
You can check out brief interviews below.