By Lisa Singleton-Rickman
Lauderdale County High School head football coach Bob Grisham has been suspended for 10 days without pay for making anti-gay comments and derogatory comments about first lady Michelle Obama during a class last week.
School board members spent less than 30 minutes in executive session before making the announcement.
In addition to the suspension, which begins today, Grisham cannot teach his fifth period psychology class for the remainder of the school year.
He will be assigned other academic duties during that time, according to Lauderdale County Superintendent Jennifer Gray. She said Grisham will be required to meet monthly with the school system’s personnel director, Mark Butler, for accountability purposes. He must also attend sensitivity training.
A student taped Grisham’s class discussion on Jan. 27 in which he referred to the first lady as “fat butt Michelle Obama” He also voiced his dislike for gays, stating: “I don’t believe in queers. I don’t like queers. I don’t hate them as a person, but what they do is wrong and an abomination against God.”
Grisham said last week the comments were made in a debate-type situation and that he misspoke. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
School officials declined comment after making the announcement. Gray, however, released a written statement stating that she and the board were “profoundly disappointed in the actions and statements of Mr. Grisham” and that “the board has taken actions specifically calculated to prevent such actions and statements from being made again.”
Dozens of people attended the school board’s called meeting Monday, most of whom appeared to be Grisham supporters.
Board member Dan Beavers voted against Gray’s recommendation and said he was angered that Board Chairman, Chad Holden didn’t call for discussion to give him an opportunity to explain why he voted against the recommendation.
“I thought five days without pay was all he should get,” Beavers said after the meeting adjourned.
“I didn’t agree with the 10 days. I agreed with the other parts of (Grisham’s) punishment.”
Holden did not allow public comment during the meeting.
Grisham’s suspension concludes Feb. 19. He must attend sensitivity training on Feb. 18, 20, 21 and 22.
Brad Tipper attended the meeting and said the situation involving Grisham has been “blown out of proportion.”
“Bob Grisham is a good Christian man,” he said. “If we had more teachers like him, we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems that exist today.”
Tipper said the punishment was too harsh.
Ricky Hamm shared those sentiments.
“I don’t agree with kids getting to take cellphones in class,” Hamm said. “This should never have happened.”
Ralph Young, a member of Equality Alabama, a civil rights organization that speaks out on gay rights, said Monday’s decision sends a mixed signal to gay and lesbian students in Lauderdale County.
“All students should feel safe, welcomed and able to learn,” Young said. “I don’t think (these students’) concerns were addressed today.”
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or [email protected]