Soddy-Daisy High athletic director placed on leave after taking shots at girls in viral video
Parents outraged after Soddy-Daisy High athletic director says to ‘blame the girls’ because they ‘pretty much ruin everything’
UPDATED at 5:35 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, with information about Hensley being placed on administrative leave.
Soddy-Daisy High School’s athletic director Jared Hensley was placed on leave after a video featuring comments he made went viral Wednesday.
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The video sparked outrage and backlash from many community members, who contacted school board members, central office and posted on social media.
While addressing a dress code policy regarding athletic shorts (which students are not allowed to wear at the school), Hensley said “If you really want someone to blame, blame the girls. Because they pretty much ruin everything. They ruin the dress code, they ruin…well, ask Adam. Look at Eve. That’s really all you really gotta get to, OK. You can really go back to the beginning of time. So, it’ll be like that the rest of your life. Get used to it, keep your mouth shut, suck it up [and] follow the rules.”
The video, which has since been removed from YouTube, contains announcements and other information that is produced journalism students and broadcasted to other students at the school.
Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson said the district had reviewed the video content and found Hensley’s comments “inexcusable.”
“We find the comments about young women in this video inexcusable, as the sentiments expressed do not align with the values of Hamilton County Schools. The situation is under investigation, and this employee has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately,” Johnson said in a statement. “We hold our employees and our leaders to a high standard, and these comments do not match the high expectations we have for our employees. We seek to prepare all children for success in life after high school and expect our employees to provide an atmosphere that will empower all children to reach their full potential.”
Natalie Green, a mother of a daughter in Hamilton County Schools said Hensley’s statements “disgust her.”
“The fact that they’re coming from an educator is bad enough, but the fact that they’re coming from a man in a position of power is even worse. These remarks are blatantly sexist and misogynistic,” Green said. “And do nothing but perpetuate victim-blaming and reinforce the rape culture that is so insidiously ingrained in our society.”
Alicia Whitley, a mother of four Hamilton County students, related Hensley’s comments to the current controversy regarding accusations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted two women.
“This is how we Kavanaugh is getting so much support from the GOP. This nation has made sexism normal and acceptable. People feel like they can say things like this with no repercussions,” Whitley said.
Whitley has three daughters and two sons and said her 12-year-old son was “flabbergasted” when he saw the video.
In the past year, allegations against prominent men in all sectors of society from Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose to Bill Cosby and Brett Kavanaugh have come to light as women and allies call them out on behaviors ranging from harassing comments to sexual assault.
The #MeToo movement has brought attention, both online and in real life, and sparked dialogue about abuses of power and mistreatment of women.
Dawn Sloan Downes said that Hensley’s comments mirrors the messaging that women have been fighting to overcome for decades.
“It mirrors the message society sends when it says a rape victim has ruined a boy’s life because she came forward,” she said. “All of these messages tell girls that the only thing that matters is what men or boys want and that girls themselves, only matter as obstacles preventing boys and men from having what they want.”
A local activist organization, Chattanooga Moms for Social Justice, was instrumental in sharing the video and bringing the incident to light.
“I have no doubt that Mr. Hensley will claim he was joking,” said Taylor Lyons, one of the co-founders of the group. “However, given the current social climate, his comments are insensitive at best and wildly inappropriate at worst. To suggest that ‘girls are responsible for ruining everything since the beginning of time and will continue to do so’ is completely unacceptable and he needs to apologize.”
Tucker McClendon, school board member for District 8, echoed Lyons’ thoughts.
“I think it was a stupid thing to say. It was inappropriate message,” he said. “I would really like to see an apology to the women of Soddy Daisy and that staff and the women across the county.”
Soddy-Daisy’s school board representative Rhonda Thurman, of District 1, thinks differently though, especially as her community is dealing with days of torrential rain, flooding and the death of an elderly woman.
“There’s a lot going on right now to be worried about this in Soddy-Daisy. I’m having a real hard time getting upset about this. I’m not worried about that right now. He meant absolutely no harm by this,” she said. “This is so ridiculous. Can nobody take a joke anymore? He was just talking to the kids in their language and trying to be funny.”
Paige Dunny, a current student at Soddy-Daisy High School, said that many of those speaking out are mischaracterizing Hensley.
“I personally know Mr. Hensley and would like to say that he is one of the most supportive and nicest people/men I know. To put it into specifics, I had his gym class before he was vice principal and not once was he sexist or treated us any less because we were girls,” Dunny said in an email. “There are many who stand behind him. I’d hate to see such a wonderful man lose something he cares so much about over a comment that he didn’t mean. While distasteful, it doesn’t give a glimpse into the man he actually is.”
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.