Debra Jose

Debra Jose

*The grandmother of a student with learning challenges was horrified when her grandson brought home an unusual award from his teacher at Sulphur Springs Middle School located just outside Dallas.

The 14-year-old boy’s grandma, Debra Jose, believes the teachers were making fun of her grandson, who is in a class for students with varying levels of learning challenges.

He brought home a certificate that read “8th Annual Ghetto Classroom Awards.” On it was printed the 14-year-old boy’s name, along with a line stating that he had won “The ‘huh?’ Award.” The paper was signed by two teachers, a Mrs. Garner and a Mr. Couch.

ghetto classroom awards

“Tears just started falling out of my eyes. I was like, ‘What did they just do to him again?‘” Jose told CBS News. “I just want them to help him. Don’t insult him.”

Jose said she was so disturbed she couldn’t rest. “I just lay in bed and thought about it all night long. I couldn’t sleep very good. You want the best for children — not just my grandchild — but, every child.”

One of the teachers, Tim Couch, has since come forward to apologize, while the other teacher, Stephanie Garner, offered to resign.

Jerrika Dabbs Wilkins

Jerrika Dabbs Wilkins

Meanwhile, the local Fox affiliate interviewed the boy’s mom, Jerrika Wilkins, who says the award was damaging to her son, especially because it was given in a special education classroom.

“He feels pretty inferior,” Wilkins told KDFW. “You know, he want to succeed. You know, it just kind of hurt his feelings.” She added that her son has struggled in school and is already self-conscious about that fact.

Wilkins and other relatives attended a two-hour meeting at the school with the principal, assistant principal and the two teachers who gave out the award.

They boy’s family says that one of the teachers, Tim Couch, who also serves as pastor at the Cross Branch Cowboy Church in Sumner, TX apologized.

The other teacher, Stephanie Garner, offered to resign, but the family said they didn’t want that, and have accepted both teachers’ apologies.

The family says they were told the awards went out to all the kids in the classroom as a joke, and was not meant as a racial slur.

“Ghetto was not supposed to be a malicious intent to degrade him,” said Wilkins. “It was supposed to be all in fun. I didn’t take it that way.”

The awards are not endorsed by Sulphur Springs ISD, nor Jena Williams, principal of Sulphur Springs Middle School. Her initials were even forged by the teachers.

sulphur springs middle school

CBS 11 News asked Sulphur Springs Superintendent Michael Lamb what, exactly, is a Ghetto Classroom Award? He said, “It is not something SSISD is proud of. It is not acceptable. It is not anything we want to be a part of… and we are addressing it today.”

When asked if he could appreciate how offensive and racist many in the community will see the presentations Lamb said, “Yeah, I can appreciate that… not much chance that anyone would see it any other way.”

CBS 11 also pointed out that this was the 8th Annual Ghetto Classroom Award, and asked Supt. Lamb how such an award could have been handed out for eight years without anyone noticing.

“It’s something this teacher did for six years in a prior district,” says Supt. Lamb. “It went unnoticed.” The teacher who signed the award worked those years as a Special Education teacher in the Carrollton Farmers-Branch school district.

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for the district confirmed the teacher’s prior employment. But, stressed that no administrator in the district was aware of any such award and had they known, it would not have been allowed to continue.

Watch a report from CBS’ Dallas affiliate below: