A year after Florida A&M scandal, prep band director fired for verbal and physical abuse of students

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

In 2011-12, the hideous mistreatment of a Florida A&M drum major led to his demise, sparking a national outcry that such physical crimes could have been committed, eventually leading to the suspension of the school's entire marching band program.

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Now, a year later, a popular high school band director has been fired after facing accusations of actions similar to the ones that led to the eventual suspension of the Florida A&M marching band program following the tragic death of Robert Champion.

As reported by Florida Today and Bay News 9, among other sources, Melbourne (Fla.) Heritage High band director James Wilkins was fired after the Brevard (Fla.) School Board received a letter from superintendent Brian Binggeli outlining a rash of improprieties perpetrated by the popular director during his tenure at the school.

Among seven violations outlined in a four-page letter, Binggeli accuses Wilkins of inappropriate sexual comments directed at students, inappropriate racial nicknames for students and, troublingly, inflicting personal injury on a student.

You can read full details about all the counts against Wilkins here, but the following all count among the director's alleged lowlights, as elucidated by USA Today:

Wilkins allegedly told two students that a female band member played her woodwind instrument in a manner that looked like an act of oral sex. "The exact language you used is too graphic to repeat in this public record," Binggeli wrote.

According to Binggeli's letter, Wilkins also called a white band student who improved his dance skills "Soul Train." A Hispanic student was commonly called "Panchero's" and an Asian student was referred to as "Pocahontas."

For his part, Wilkins continues to challenge the counts against him, claiming he will file suit in court to try and maintain his position. In the meantime, students and some parents connected with the program have repeatedly rallied in support of the director, hoping to get him reinstated at the school.

Whether those rallying points can save Wilkins remains to be seen. In the meantime, plenty will wonder how the actions the deposed band director is accused of continued for so long  without intervention or reprimand of any kind.

"Our son was so upset," the father of a student who Wilkins reportedly verbally abused told Florida Today. "He had a distinct personality change for days after, where he wouldn't talk. He had tears in his eyes and he had been put down very bad, and that's when we started looking at what was actually happening in the classroom."

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