The superintendent of Hazard Independent Schools said "appropriate disciplinary action has been taken" after photos surfaced showing students giving lap dances to staff and wearing scant clothing Tuesday as part of Hazard High School's homecoming week festivities in Eastern Kentucky.
Students and staff took part in a "Man Pageant" and "Costume Day" on Tuesday, according to Hazard High School's Facebook page.
Photos that were subsequently taken down from the athletics department's Facebook page showed students in underclothing giving lap dances to faculty and staff, including Hazard High School Principal Donald "Happy" Mobelini, who is also mayor of the Perry County city.
Other photos on the athletics page that also were later taken down showed female students dressed up in "Hooters" outfits and students and staff appearing to paddle one another.
Mobelini, the principal and mayor, did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.
"Um. Exactly what is going on here, y’all? C’mon Hazard," Nema Brewer, cofounder of education advocacy group KY 120 United, wrote Tuesday night in a tweet that showed the lap dance photos. "Get it together."
Sondra Combs, superintendent of Hazard Independent Schools, told The Courier Journal the district "has a tradition of excellence and academics and everything we do, but the incident is being investigated and once the investigation is complete, appropriate action will be taken."
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She said in a later statement the district had handed down a punishment or punishments but is "not allowed to disclose any further information regarding the specifics of the discipline" because it is a "personnel matter."
Combs did say a "student activity committee" would be formed "to review all student led activities" and that all staff would undergo further training "on policies and procedures.
Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman said the department is "aware of what took place in Hazard Independent Schools" and has "been in contact with the superintendent, who has informed us that the incident is under investigation."
Kentucky law provides that school district superintendents are required to report instances of educator misconduct to the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB). Therefore, if the investigation finds a certified educator likely violated the Kentucky Educator Code of Ethics, the superintendent is required to report this to the EPSB for potential action," Konz Tatman wrote in an email.
A thread about the Hazard High School events on the social media site Reddit titled "This is the mayor of my town being grinded on by a high school student dressed as a woman" has more than 450 comments and 7,600 upvotes on the website.
Aster Sizemore, a board member for Hazard Independent Schools, said he was at the high school Tuesday but not at the event where the questionable activity occurred.
"Normally, the principal, Happy Mobelini, is pretty dad-gum strict, so that surprises me, unless someone pulled something out of a hat,” Sizemore told The Courier Journal. "A kid comes to school with a short dress, you know, he makes them go home and change."
Board chairman Ralph Butch Asher said he was aware of the issue and had not heard any complaints from parents. He could not say if the event was held annually, referring questions to the district.
Mobelini was previously the subject of an investigation in 2008, when photos posted to Facebook showed him driving while his daughter and four of her teenage friends drank alcohol and smoked cigarettes in the vehicle.
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The students and Mobelini all told district officials the principal did not know the girls had alcohol and were drinking, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported at the time.
The principal also came under scrutiny earlier in 2008, according to the Herald-Leader, when police charged 12 underage students with alcohol intoxication after they were found drinking on the Hazard High School football field.
Mobelini reportedly was with the students about 30 minutes before Hazard police arrived at the football field and found hard liquor and beer, but he said the students had not been drinking when he was still there.
According to the Herald-Leader, no charges were filed against him at the time.