DeKalb County Schools: Strike up the bands

In a family photo, Robert Champion demonstrates the flair that earned him the prestigious drum major role in the FAMU band.

In a family photo, Robert Champion demonstrates the flair that earned him the prestigious drum major role in the FAMU band.

DeKalb lifted its suspension on high school marching band activities today, a suspension imposed last month in the wake of the alleged hazing death of a FAMU drum major who had been a member of a noted DeKalb high school band.

However, the county continues to look into whether any incidences of bullying or harassment have occurred in its band programs.

In ending most band activities in mid-December, schools spokesman Walter Woods said, “We need to make sure that the adults responsible for the band, the principal, the band directors are following our policies.’’

DeKalb superintendent Cheryl Atkinson has not yet commented on whether the hazing behaviors documented at FAMU have been found at the high school level. The suspension struck a sour note with parents in DeKalb who had children in marching band. Parents argued that the high schools bands were suffering guilt by association.

According to the AJC:

The schools chief said the district has “zero tolerance” for hazing or bullying of any kind and it will continue to look into reports of inappropriate behavior in marching bands. The activities of adults in charge of marching band programs are the focus of the probe.

“I want students and parents to know that we are lifting the suspension on marching band activities,” Atkinson said. “We have met with all of our high school principals and band directors to make sure they understand their responsibility and accountability for students regarding our policies when it comes to band activities.”

The announcement ended the suspension that affected all but select band activities at the district high schools that have band programs. The investigation began after two alleged hazing incidents at Florida A&M University involving marching band students who had attended DeKalb Schools.

Robert Champion, who died Nov. 19, was a Southwest DeKalb High School graduate. So is FAMU clarinetist Bria Hunter, who suffered a broken leg in a separate incident. Two of the three FAMU band members who were charged with punching her also attended Southwest DeKalb. The third graduated from Druid Hills High School, also a DeKalb school.

Parents concerned about the secrecy and length of the investigation worried that seniors this year could win fewer scholarships because of the negative publicity.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

45 comments Add your comment

Just so everybody knows

January 18th, 2012
11:22 am

Marching band activities are usually over in November, or whenever the football season is over. Then, almost all legitimate band programs move into concert season, where they prepare for winter and spring concerts, and performance evaluation, which is a state wide event and is required by state standards. The only bands that keep their marching bands active year round are the groups that have nothing else to do because they can’t. If Dekalb Co. really wanted to change the culture of their system, they would hold these band programs to higher standards, and ask that they advance their programs out of the 60’s and start challenging their students’ mentally and educationally. These band programs are cheap knock-offs of HBCU’s, most of which are of a poor quality and do most of the students no favors when it comes to a full and rounded education. Change the culture, change the results.

Dunwoody Mom

January 18th, 2012
11:36 am

It’s interesting the article also indicates the investigation continues to be on the adults involved band directors, band booster members, alumni helpers and volunteers and that the investigation could lead to criminal or other disciplinary actions against these adults. Wow – sounds like the investigation is not over.

Truth

January 18th, 2012
11:52 am

I am fully aware of studies that show playing a musical instrument helps the brain develop thus helping in academics – I get it.

However, at these schools, the academics are already in the toilet. Most have missed AYP every year. Their average SAT scores are very sad. The ‘bar’ set is already so low at these schools and yet the students are still doing poorly.

Based on this, I question the wisdom of having these extra-curriculars. After all, they are EXTRA- curriculars. I feel that the time spent on these should be spent increasing their knowledge in these subjects.

If one were to tell the students, “no football, no basketball, no band” until their grades are up, I would bet that their grades would quickly improve!

Flash

January 18th, 2012
12:02 pm

That is great but they should be closely watched.hazing has caused one child to lose his life and another severly beaten.The school got it right but in South Dekalb parents only care about I,I,I and that is a problem.dekalb please continue to watch the band and the parents. safety is first for all children.Band parents get an academic Scholarship first and you would not have to depend on drum.

Just so you know....

January 18th, 2012
12:31 pm

All of the bands are not cheap knock-offs of HBCUs. My child is in the band at Druid Hills and missed an opportunity to gain a scholarship due to the suspension. My child boast a 3.5 GPA as a senior and with this band scholarship it would have help eleviate some of the cost for college. We are always invited in January to attend band programs that showcase the talent of students in order to get scholarships.
So with that being said, @Just so everybody knows……keep the racist comments to yourself.

Dunwoody Mom

January 18th, 2012
12:34 pm

@Just so you know…..I guess the DH band director did not ask permission to attend these band programs. Dr. Atkinson indicated that all requests for activities by bands were granted.

Just a comment

January 18th, 2012
12:36 pm

@ Truth

Fact: Students who are involved in the “EXTRA-curriculars” are more apt to stay in school than those who do not. No football, no basketball, no band = no school (drop out). There are kids only in school because of these programs.

Just so you know....

January 18th, 2012
12:39 pm

@ Dunwoody Mom, you believe everything you read? Then you are one of those parents who probably thinks that DeKalb County School system is doing a great job!

Dunwoody Mom

January 18th, 2012
12:46 pm

@Just so you know….No, I didn’t read it. It was announced at the Board of Education meeting.

Car Salesman

January 18th, 2012
1:14 pm

Stop having these stupid kids

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

January 18th, 2012
1:26 pm

HIP HIP HURRAH!!!!

What a fine example of Ms Atkinson putting her, apparently, excellent marketing skills to work.

Ah yes…create the need and fill it / create the crisis and solve it!!!

This is one of the biggest bunch of nothing Ive ever seen. No doubt though Ms Atkinson will receive dumpster loads of praise for a job well done. I just wonder 4 years from now will you still by hyping Ms Atkinson when you child is failing, not graduating, expelled or in prison.

Good Mom

January 18th, 2012
1:40 pm

To think there is no hazing in high school one must live in a hole, a very deep one, I think it is prudent and wise to look into hazing at the high school level. I have no idea as Dr. No imagines, whether Atkinson will do a good job or whether this is her marketing skills at work but looking into hazing at high school is time very well spent, in my opinion.

To Just so You know from Good Mom

January 18th, 2012
1:59 pm

Just so you Know, there is no way I can say what I am going to say to you without it sounding unkind but I’ll try.

I hope your child deserves a scholarship to college and, if deserved, I hope your child does very well and becomes educated and gainfully employed. Those are my most sincere wishes for you. That’s the easy part to say and to write. The next part isn’t.

Just so you know, your grammar is poor. The mistakes you make in your post immediately identify you as a poorly-educated black person. I see these types of mistakes on resumes and they get thrown in the trash by me and by others. What I want you to please consider is to ensure your child writes and speaks English properly. Those skills will likely make him more successful than being able to march and play in a high school band.

These are the common mistakes I see in your post:

“My child boast a 3.5 GPA as a senior….”
You have used the plural verb for a singular subject. Your child boasts….not boast. They boast. We boast He or she boasts.

“…with this band scholarship it would have help eleviate some of the cost for college.” A similar mistake is made here. You should have written “it would have helped” not “it would have help”

“We are always invited in January to attend band programs that showcase the talent of students in order to get scholarships.”

How does your child deserve a scholarship if he or she cannot write or speak common English? Does your child speak and write as you do? I think it is likely.

Please educate yourself, correctly use the language we speak and insist your child do the same. It will help your child become successful and at the very minimum, it will likely prevent his or her resume from finding its way into the bottom of the Delete box in a manager’s email file.

You will likely label me as a racist too. I say the same things to those who use poor grammar that identifies them as poorly educated white people. The double-negative is an unfotunate habit. “I don’t have no…” instead of “I don’t have any…”

Times are tough and there is an abundance of Indians and Europeans needing jobs who can speak and write English as well and often better than we Americans do. If you toss away my comments as “racist” and don’t ensure your child educates him or herself to speak and write English properly, you will ensure your child has a difficult time finding meaningful, high-paying employment.

I wouldn’t want that to happen to any American citizen.

WAR

January 18th, 2012
2:05 pm

pledging is a necessary process. hazing is part of that process, but it should not lead to death. it is designed to break one mentally and spiritually through some physical engagements. at some level pledging takes various forms. just thought i would put it out there before we act as if we dont condone nor participate in it ever.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

January 18th, 2012
2:07 pm

“I think it is prudent and wise to look into hazing at the high…”

Would it not be equally or even more prudent to look into on campus gambling, drug-dealing/taking, sex, gang activity, failing students, extortion etc? Oh but wait this hazing thing came just after the Florida hazing issue arose. Coincidence? I think not. Ms Atkinson is excellent at grandstanding and headline grabbing.

While watching the noon edition of local news one lady stated “I was praying this would be cleared up.” LMAO…there was nothing to clear. Atkinson created the entire issue and you SHEEP fell for it…BAAHH, BAAAHH…

So sorry Good Mom you get your F for the day.

WAR

January 18th, 2012
2:07 pm

by the way…everyone knows this is not a grammar test when we write responses…right? i dont use caps or most grammar marks, but everyone pretty much understands what im saying…right?

Just so you know....

January 18th, 2012
2:19 pm

@ Good Mom….really is that all you have to say!!! I stated that my child has a GPA of 3.5 not 1.5. What constitutes you as the Good Mom..could it be the way you degrade other peoples children or your lack of attention that you may give your children because you are too busy correcting their grammar. Now I, don’t want to say this “without it sounding unkind but I’ll try,” am sure that your little Tommy or little Becky would probably want a hug instead of being corrected every time they speak or write, but my little Becky speaks and writes common english as you say, and deserves every scholarship that has been presented to her.

Just so you know....

January 18th, 2012
2:22 pm

@ Dunwoody Mom, I was there also and I will tell you, that she may have stated that, but that did not happen.

darattler

January 18th, 2012
2:23 pm

I thought it was a very dumb decision by Dr. Atkinson to suspend these bands in the first place. Dekalb Band Parents are some of the most pride and supportive parents in America. The Dekalb County Bands are great and have a very successful track record. If Dr. Atkinson pulls a stupid stunt like this again, the band parents will run her out of town. Most College Band Recruiters are standing in line to sign them to scholarships. In 1996, Southwest Dekalb Marching Band performed in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Thanks to Mr. Don Roberts for all that he has done to make Dekalb County Bands a smashing success. The man is brilliant!

@ just so everybody knows – What everybody knows now is that you are an ignorant individual and obviously live in a trailer without running water and lights.

Bguy

January 18th, 2012
2:28 pm

This is a good decision by DeKalb educators. Their actions seemed over the top a bit, though no one condones hazing. My concern is with another part of band activities: the failures of the band directors to teach the kids to play well. Most of these bands sound terrible when they perform. Never mind hazing, how about getting more of the notes right?

WAR

January 18th, 2012
2:28 pm

just so you know

i hope your daughter gets as much scholarship money and other rewards she deserves. its a good thing and you dont have to defend yourself or comments from some mom in dunwoody who probably thinks its better to be a dunwoody mom versus a dekalb mom or some “good” mom who thinks hazing in high school is time well spent. go figure these two absent minded clowns.

WAR

January 18th, 2012
2:31 pm

bguy

amen! some of these bands sound terrible and you can tell it. on the other hand, the bands i like you may think are terrible and vice versa… funny thing about an opinion, huh? everybody got one. but i do agree with you on this one thing: how about getting more of the notes right!

Dr. John Trotter

January 18th, 2012
2:37 pm

I told you that the suspension would not last very long.

Dunwoody Mom

January 18th, 2012
2:46 pm

@Just so you know….so you are calling Dr. Atkinson a liar? Please enlighten us as to what event the Druid Hills band was denied.

WAR

January 18th, 2012
2:54 pm

dwoody mom

honestly they should be denied ever touching the field!
na just kidding. never heard them play. im sure they are pretty good.
just wanted to be sarcastic at your expense dunwoody mom. :)

WAR

January 18th, 2012
3:02 pm

well ladies and gentlemen its been fun. hope we can do this again tomorrow but until then remember: WAR is only hell if youre losing.

What Ban

January 18th, 2012
3:14 pm

I saw a few Dekalb County School Bands in the MLK Parade so how much of a ban was it?

Observer

January 18th, 2012
3:56 pm

@ Good Mom, January 18th,1:40 pm: “To think there is no hazing in high school one must live in a hole, a very deep one, I think it is prudent and wise to look into hazing at the high school level. I have no idea as Dr. No imagines, whether Atkinson will do a good job or whether this is her marketing skills at work but looking into hazing at high school is time very well spent, in my opinion.”

Just so you know, your grammar is poor. Both sentences contain many errors. Your first sentence begins with a modifying phrase and thus needs a comma after “school.” This sentence also contains a comma splice, for there should be a period or semi-colon after “a very deep one.” Your second sentence also begins with a modifying phrase and thus needs a comma after “idea.” This entire sentence is a run-on sentence, needing a semi-colon after “work.”

Please educate yourself and correctly use the language we speak.

Melanie

January 18th, 2012
4:00 pm

Told you we should have gotten Cathy Cox for Supt. This lady is way over her head. Where is all the TRANSPARENCY? This lady is a dizzy broad who hires outsiders to tell her what to do. Where is thie consultants budget? What is the new Safe Schools friend that she hired doing? Oh, I guess Ramsey is investigating the band directors etc. after he leaves his day job at the Senate.

Flabberghasted4sure

January 18th, 2012
4:16 pm

If your child is a senior, his/her college applications would have been submitted by Jan. 15. How does a marching band event in mid/late January help get a scholarship if you haven’t already applied to that school? If you have applied, they already know about you and can contact your band director to learn about your qualifications for a scholarship. And FWIW, winter and spring athletes manage to land scholarships and haven’t even had their season yet to be observed. I doubt lots of scholarship opportunities are lost because marching band activities were halted in mid December, esp. when an avenue for requesting an exception in place. If your band didn’t get to perform somewhere, you should be asking your band director why he/she didn’t request permission – make them show you the request or else they will blame their inaction on the superintendent.

Just so you know…how about scanning and posting here the request your band director submitted to Dr. Atkinson if you are so sure it was submitted and denied.

To Just so ....from Good Mom

January 18th, 2012
4:28 pm

I never said your child had a 1.5 GPA. I clearly quoted you as saying your child has a 3.5 GPA.

However, GPAs don’t matter much. Many students get into school and never finish college because they can’t do the work. They’re in over their heads. You need to use good grammar and insist your children do as well. If your child speaks and writes English grammar as poorly as you do, your child will either never be able to pass freshman English or if he or she graduates, will be marginalized at work.

Learning to make your subjects and verbs agree is easy. It is taught, literally, in grammar school, grades k-5. Please borrow a grammar book and educate yourself and your child. When you use singular verbs with plural subjects, you put yourself at a disadvantage in the job market.

Please, call me a fat-azzed, racist if you want to, I don’t mind. I just really want America’s children to have just as good a chance to be hired for a management-level position as the foreigners do. It breaks my heart to walk into the cafeteria at work and see more and more foreign labor. We need to ensure every American kid has a shot at a decent-paying job and a shot at a real career.

mum

January 18th, 2012
5:27 pm

@Just so you know, suspension of band activities should not have affected your child auditioning for scholarships because the ban was on the groups not individuals. If your child is that good, there are more than enough opportunities for him/her to get in front of band directors. If your child didn’t do any auditions in Junior year, ask your band director when and where there will be auditions this semester If all else fails, ask other students, they always know when auditions are. If you really want a music scholarship for your child, you’ll need to advocate for them.

Greta

January 18th, 2012
5:29 pm

@ Good Mom – I hear what you’re saying, but I think you’re being snarky and self-righteous. When reading @ Just So You Know’s post, I also thought her grammar and English were poor, but I wouldn’t spend the time you’ve spent putting her down on a stupid newspaper website. And, by the way, I possess a degree in English from the University of VA.

I am an African-American mom with a senior in the marching band at a DeKalb County School. I have been an officer in my child’s band booster club for over 5 years (I also have an older child who was in the marching band). Neither of my children were relying upon a band scholarship to attend college (we stressed academics first and foremost in our home) but, for many of these kids, a band scholarship is their golden ticket to a college education.

Maybe you should spend less time correcting grammar and English on the AJC.com webblog and more time learning how be less judgemental. That is all. Thank you.

Greta

January 18th, 2012
5:30 pm

Observer

January 18th, 2012
5:41 pm

@ Good Mom, 4:28 pm. Your posts over the past few months very often criticize the grammar of others, while demonstrating your own poor grasp of grammar. Your own 1:40 pm post is a good example. Your following 1:59 pm post only shows that then you were using your computer’s self-correction features. What you wrote at 1:40 shows the TRUE Good Mom.

“You need to use good grammar and insist your children do as well. If your child speaks and writes English grammar as poorly as you do, your child will either never be able to pass freshman English or if he or she graduates, will be marginalized at work.”

And, I might add, will not always have a computer available to make corrections.

Jan

January 18th, 2012
5:43 pm

An investigation into alleged hazing/inappropriate behaviors in the DeKalb County School band programs did not require a suspension of most band activities at all schools. This investigation should have and could have been more tightly focused.

chillywilly

January 18th, 2012
6:32 pm

Dr. Atkinson needs to explain why APS Chief Financial Officer, Chuck Burbridge is working for Dekalb County Schools several days a week. Is this the reason she transferred Dekalb Schools CFO, Marcus Turk. I smell a rat. I hope that she is not planning to hire a CFO from a school system (APS) that was determined to be involved in the biggest cheating scandal in America’s history. By the way, Chuck Burbridge was one of Beverly Hall’s cabinet members. If I was Dekalb Schools, I wouldn’t touch Burbridge with a 10 foot pole.

Name One

January 18th, 2012
11:57 pm

Keith Sailor, stop trying to gloss over that the SW DeKalb High band has a long history of hazing. We all know what’s happened, but the kids are too scared to come forward.

Don Roberts needs to be officially fired, and never ever allowed again to work in education.

Name One

January 19th, 2012
12:05 am

And DCSS School Band Director Don Roberts has for years worked on outside projects during his DCSS work day, getting paid by DCSS while using his DCSS computer and phone to further his career. He is an egomaniac who should have been fired years ago.

WAR

January 19th, 2012
8:23 am

name 1

you always talk about someone getting fired. and i do mean always. there is never redirection, suspension, or explanation. you want someone fired. surely there has been a situation in your life where you should have been fired and was not. go ahead, think about it, and name one.

lol at you all

January 19th, 2012
8:33 am

^^^^^wow….my sentiments exactly

SWD Band Parent

January 20th, 2012
12:17 am

SWD has received a lot of bad publicity from this whole incident. Even though the suspension was for the entire county, all eyes were on SWD. Every article in the paper had a picture of our band. It is unfortunate that someone was hazed and died from it. It is also unfortunate that the young lady was hazed and suffered injuries but that happened in FLORIDA! Yes they had something in common…they were once students at SWD. Does that say hazing is going on at SWD? No it doesn’t. My child has been a part of this program for 4 years now and not once has she been hazed. Parents are around at all times! Mr Seda is an outstanding musician and is doing an excellent job…he would NEVER allow that to happen! There have been a lot of negative comments about our band…mainly from those that know nothing about bands. Not only does SWD perform great half time shows, they also excel in concert. This band has repeatedly been invited to perform at many distinguished events year after year! Many of you need to keep your uninformed negative comments to yourself!

Typical@SWD Band Parent

January 21st, 2012
4:29 am

Is that right SWD Band Parent? Hey, how many former SWD band members are part of the FAMU Red Dawg order???

http://www.ajc.com/news/dekalb/4-more-charged-with-1310262.html
Three people were charged after alleged hazing ceremonies Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, when Bria Shante Hunter’s legs were beaten with fists and a metal ruler to initiate her into the “Red Dawg Order,” a band clique for students who hail from Georgia.

darattler

January 21st, 2012
10:24 am

I agree with SWD Band Parent. SWD has one of the best high school marching bands in the country. When adult students practice bad behavior, away from home, off campus, they run the risk of being injured or worse. Supt. Atkinson made a stupid decision to ground all of the marching bands because of hearsay. My first impression of this woman is that she is a terrible superintendent and never should have been selected by Dekalb County. Most of the band members in SWD’s band are very disciplined and talented. That is the reason many of the nation’s college bands are lining up to sign them. I’ve been following SWD Marching Band for years and have yet to hear of any hazing or other problems involving their students. I do not endorse the Red Dog Order nor the Tea Party Order. I think that they both are dumb, underground student (black & white) groups that should be smoked out and done away with. We are very proud of SWD Marching Band and the job that Band Director Seda is doing.

SWD Band Parent

January 22nd, 2012
11:58 pm

@ Typical..Yes, that is right!! I dont know how many members of the Red Dawgs hail from SWD nor do I care. I can not attest to what the students do AFTER they graduate from high school. What I am saying is that hazing does not occur at SWD! SWD has almost 200 children participating in their band. Do you honestly think hazing can occur and not ONE child tells their parent….and do you think a parent would allow that? Do you think SWD is the only school from Georgia that has former students at FAMU? Do you think the Red Dawgs only consist of students from SWD? As I said before, some of you need to keep your uninformed opinions to yourself.