Brown County learns lesson after old photo draws controversy

Richard Gist
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NASHVILLE, Ind. (WTHR) — Learning is a lifelong endeavor.

That is certainly the case in Brown County, where the community is working to turn an unfortunate occurrence on the web into a positive.

It's been a difficult time here at Brown County schools after a post put on the internet led to misunderstanding.

"I learned that I can open my ears more and listen more than speak," Richard Gist stated.

A substitute teacher in the Brown County school system, Gist found himself in the superintendent's office Thursday, expressing remorse for the re-posting of a Halloween blackface picture of him posing as singer Bob Marley that was taken ten years ago.

"I was trying to understand how representing myself as someone I admired would be offensive. It quickly got offensive," he admitted.

It was brought to the attention of Brown County Superintendent Dr. Laura Hammack.

"There are opportunities when you make a mistake to repair that harm, you can step up and make that happen by educating yourself and apologizing then great things can happen," Hammack said.

Initially, Hammack considered termination, but upon talking with Gist, the two have decided the substitute teacher, who also serves as assistant track and football coach, can work together make this a teachable moment.

"We are really focused on ways to make this a learning opportunity to educate boys and girls in our community. We see this as a teachable moment," she stated.

"I feel terrible for how I portrayed myself and how I put myself out there and perceive me and the actions that I took that were really offensive to other people. Whether that was my intent or not, the fact that I insulted somebody or offended somebody or didn't even listen to them is more important than what my intent was," Gist said.

So fittingly enough, it is a teachable moment for a school district and an entire community.

Don Griffin with the NAACP in Bloomington said this solution where Gist keeps his job and works to educate others is the best way to address this situation.

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