Student-staff lap dance incident at Kentucky high school followed other provocative events, videos show

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Newly surfaced videos posted on social media show more Hazard High School skits in which students acted provocatively as teachers laughed and sometimes participated during the past four years.

The videos were shared with the Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, Thursday after Hazard Independent Schools district announced Wednesday it had launched an investigation into this year's homecoming celebration that included a "Man Pageant" and led to photos being posted on the school's Facebook page of students giving lap dances in their undergarments.

That investigation ended with "appropriate disciplinary action," according to Superintendent Sondra Combs, who would not say who has been punished. Combs said students were behind the "homecoming festivities," and described the events as an isolated incident.

But the new videos obtained by the Courier Journal show similar skits have been performed previously.

Background: Kentucky high school staff members got lap dances from students, photos appear to show

One video, first posted on Instagram in October 2017 then shared again in January 2018, shows one male student — dressed in a bra, shorts and wig — grinding on two other male students who sat in chairs in the middle of the gym, while a fourth student simultaneously throws a wad of what looks like cash into the air. 

The background of the gym and the logo on its floor are the same as the photos shared this week, and the video was posted by a former Hazard High student. 

Video: High school sweethearts marry by lockers

Another video shows a male student in a long white dress and wig dancing to Madonna's "Like a Virgin," in the middle of the school gym. The student repeatedly rolls around on the floor and crawls toward the crowd.

During the skit, the student approaches Principal Donald "Happy" Mobelini and rubs his hands over Mobelini's head and chest. As the skit continues, the video shows Mobelini clapping his hands to the beat of the music.

It is not clear what year the video was taken, though several students and staff members were wearing masks over their nose and mouth, indicating it was during the coronavirus pandemic. Again, the background of the gym and the logo on its floor are the same as the photos shared this week.

According to Tosha Lindon, a mother whose son attends Hazard High, the "Man Pageant" has been a longstanding homecoming tradition. 

Yet, Combs described this year's celebration as the first of its kind. 

"We strive to foster creativity in our students, but unfortunately, this time it was carried too far," Combs said in an emailed statement Wednesday evening. 

The homecoming activities "all were intended to be fun and good-natured however, the activities did not play out as intended," she said Wednesday. "While Homecoming is an annual tradition, there has never been any issue raised prior to this year."

"At the end of the day, the light-hearted activity simply got out of hand, and for that, we apologize. In the future, we will strive to keep the lighthearted, fun nature of school activities without the inappropriate behavior," Combs said. 

Combs and Hazard Independent board members could not be reached immediately for comments on the additional videos. 

Gov. Andy Beshear responded to the recent photos during his Thursday press briefing, calling what happened "totally unacceptable" and "inappropriate."

The district and state leadership "need to take appropriate action and ensure that this will never happen again," he said. 

Additionally, Beshear said adults at the school were rightfully criticized for letting it go on and district leadership should "make sure that we're raising our kids right about what is and is not acceptable, especially in the world that we live in."

The results of the district's investigation and what punishments are given should be made public, he added. 

Frank Newberry, a father with two kids within the district, said he was "horrified," after seeing the pictures from Tuesday. 

"My problem is not with the children — they're children, children do goofy things. My problem is the adults and their reaction to it," Newberry said. "I expect kids to be kids. But, I expect the adults tasked with supervising them to show better judgment than that."

After viewing the videos, Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman said the department does not get involved in local district matters.

"KDE was made aware about what took place in Hazard Independent Schools yesterday morning and reached out to the superintendent. She informed us yesterday that the incident is under investigation," Konz Tatman wrote. 

Kentucky law requires superintendents to report any instances of educator misconduct, Konz Tatman continued. 

Hazard is located in southeastern Kentucky, about a three-hour drive from Louisville and two hours from Lexington. The population is about 5,000, U.S. census records show.

Hazard High is one of three schools that make up Hazard Independent Schools. It is the only high school in the district and there are about 340 students enrolled, according to U.S. News & World Report. There are 32 staff members listed on the school's directory.

Contributing: Mary Ramsey, Chris Kenning and Billy Kobin

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Hazard High School lap dance incident: Old videos surface

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