Facebook erupted today as hundreds of concerned parents raised awareness after Sulphur Springs Middle School teacher Stephanie Garner held a ceremony for her students called the “Ghetto Classroom Awards.” The incident gained notoriety when a certificate from the “awards” was posted on the social media site Wednesday evening by Jerrika Dabbs, the mother of a seventh-grader in the class.
Dabbs’ post showed a certificate appearing to be signed by SSMS Principal Jena Williams (it was not signed by her) and Garner. The award said it was part of the 8th Annual Ghetto Classroom Awards, in which the student received the ‘huh?’ award. The student, whose name is omitted by the News-Telegram because he is a minor, has been trying to pass his STAAR test.
“My son has a twin brother who received two awards for English and science this year. The next day, [her son] came home and showed me the certificate. My first reaction was to tear it up,” said Dabbs. “I feel really offended because it is very demeaning and insulting toward him. I feel like his teacher really bullied him. He may not have really understood the significance when everyone laughed in class, but it is there.”
After discovering her son received a “Ghetto Award,” Dabbs called her aunt, who is a school teacher in Corpus Christi.
“She said she spoke to several of her colleagues at CCISD and confirmed to me that the award was unacceptable. My aunt told me to post it on Facebook and let people know what was happening,” said Dabbs. “I hope this does not happen to anyone else.”
By Thursday morning, the post had been shared more than 600 times and viewed thousands of times on the website.
“I do not think this was the result of SSISD, but rather the actions of one teacher. I spoke to the SSMS principal and she seemed to be unaware of what had been going on,” said Dabbs. “My son told me the teacher told him that she forged the principal’s name on the certificate. The teacher told my son, ‘That is what makes this award ghetto.’”
Dabbs went on to say she could not believe a teacher would instill fraudulent behavior in a student.
“She is setting a bad example. These children are being molded right now into adults. If my child is struggling to get a 70 in class and may not make it to eighth grade, why would anyone give him a ‘huh?’ award?” said Dabbs. “My worry is that the teacher just gave up on my child.”
News-Telegram staff tried to contact SSMS Principal Jena Williams, but she would not comment on the situation. All inquiries about the “Ghetto Awards” was directed to the SSISD Administration office.
“SSISD is aware of a set of awards that was handed out in a Sulphur Springs Middle School class. These awards were teacher-generated and only given to student in this teacher’s class,” said SSISD Superintendent Michael Lamb. “The awards are not endorsed by SSISD, nor Jena Williams, principal of Sulphur Springs Middle School.”
Lamb continued to say that the awards were unacceptable and the circumstances are currently under investigation.
“SSISD wants to apologize to anyone that was offended by the action,” remarked Lamb. “The teacher worked at another school district for six of the years and we did not received any complaints last year. The 8th Annual Ghetto Classroom Awards will be the last one.”