Ky. Gov. Says High School Event Where Students Appeared to Give Staff Lap Dances Was 'Unacceptable'

Since-deleted photos seemingly showed students giving lap dances to staff and spanking each other with a paddle, among other actions

Andy Beshear, governor of Kentucky
Gov. Andy Beshear speaking at the briefing. Photo: Scotty Perry/Bloomberg via Getty

The Governor of Kentucky is speaking out in the wake of the photo controversy at Hazard High School.

The school and its staff members — including Principal Donald "Happy" Mobelini, who is also mayor of the Perry County city — came under fire this week after since-deleted photos were posted on social media, seemingly depicting students performing "inappropriate behaviors" on staffers.

In one shot, a student was seen wearing red underclothing while straddling a seated male staff member, seemingly giving him a lap dance. Other images showed a student bending over in front of Mobelini, female students dressed up in "Hooters" outfits, and students and staff appearing to spank each other with a paddle.

Gov. Andy Beshear responded to the incident on Thursday during a COVID-19 briefing, where he called the behaviors "totally unacceptable," according to CBS affiliate WLKY.

"Inappropriate. Shouldn't happen," he said, per WLKY. "They need to take appropriate action and ensure that this will never happen again."

Hazard High School
Hazard High School. Facebook

Speaking at the briefing, Beshear said staff members "need to be talking to these students [so] that this isn't something that's normalized in their mind that they think is okay in school."

"We just want to make sure that we're raising our kids right about what is and is not acceptable, especially in the world we live in," he continued. "Can't happen, shouldn't happen. Our public schools are better than this."

According to the Louisville Courier Journal, the photos were taken on Tuesday during a "Man Pageant" and "Costume Day," as part of Hazard High's homecoming week festivities. They were later shared on Hazard High School's Athletics Facebook page.

Though they have since been deleted from the page, NBC affiliate WLEX and Twitter users were able to obtain them.

Some parents called the photos "demeaning" and "inappropriate," while others argued that they were "taken so far out of context."

Principal Mobelini did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Sondra Combs, the Superintendent of Hazard Independent School District, issued a statement to the community earlier this week, confirming that "appropriate disciplinary action has been taken" following an investigation of the events.

"Our district would like to apologize for the activity that has been portrayed in the media and we regret how this has unfolded," Combs said, in part. "This is not the type of event that typically occurs here at Hazard High School, and we sincerely regret any embarrassment this has caused our school community."

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In addition to taking disciplinary action — which Combs said she could not disclose any further because it was a "personnel matter" — she disclosed that they were also developing a student activity committee "to review all student-led activities" and providing training on school policies and procedures to all district staff.

"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. "We will continue to seek to involve our students and foster their creativity, but with more direction. ... We only ask that [you] not judge a district with a century-long tradition of striving for excellence on a single incident where fun trumped judgment."

In their own statement, the Kentucky Department of Education (DOE) said they were "aware" of the incident and "in contact with the superintendent."

"Under state law, superintendents have a duty to report any instances of educator misconduct to the Education Professional Standards Board (EPSB)," their statement read. "If an investigation finds a certified educator likely violated the Kentucky Educator Code of Ethics, they are required to report this to EPSB. If any citizen of Commonwealth feels that that Kentucky's educator Code of Ethics was violated by a certified educator, they can also file a written complaint with the EPSB by email to"

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman also confirmed that the DOE was reviewing the actions by the school district, according to CBS affiliate WYMT.

"I have seen reports, but I will tell you that the Department of Education has been in talks with the officials at Hazard. I know there is an investigation ongoing," she told the outlet. "My hope is that we can work together to get to the bottom of it and that we have the results that at the end of the day that fit what the findings are."

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