Two seniors at Bluff Dale High School, Adrienne Hughes and Christian Nagel, have started a peaceful protest regarding superintendent John Taylor's decision to not renew Coach Keith Hughes’ contract for the 2019-2020 school year.
Keith is the athletic director and coach for the Bluff Dale baseball and football teams. He is also a math and science teacher at the middle school.
Keith has only been a faculty member of Bluff Dale ISD for one school year, but already, he has touched the hearts of many.
Adrienne, who is not related to Keith, said he inspires her.
“He has such high hopes and high standards for everyone. He doesn’t let anyone behave in a way they shouldn’t. He makes us want to accomplish something more, because before he came, no one was inspired to do anything. He makes me want to be better. He makes me want to get better grades. He wants me to win the next game. That’s why he’s special to me because he encourages people from the worst circumstances to work their way up,” she said.
Adrienne and Nagel said Keith has been a great coach and has helped the Bluff Dale football team come a long way.
“So last year for football, we went none and 10. This year we went five and five, which is an extreme improvement because it was all of the same people from last year, and of course, [Coach Hughes] did that. He worked his butt off for us,” Nagel said. “He’s helped develop our program from being one of the worst teams in the state to we have a chance to go into the playoffs and actually do something. He’s been a leader to all of us and overall just a really great coach and a really good guy.”
“Before, we didn’t win a single football game,” Adrienne said. “Even parents wouldn’t even show up for their kid at the football game because no one wanted to be there and he brought the community together so much that everyone, even the games we lost, everyone went and the very first home game we had for our varsity football game, there was like a double rainbow in the sky and everyone was taking pictures and he was like, ‘It’s a sign that Bluff Dale is going to be something.’”
Not only did Keith improve the Bluff Dale football team, he helped provide new uniforms.
“We used the middle school jerseys. We didn’t have any jerseys and he made a deal with Adidas to get us like a big percentage off. He got all of the sports new jerseys, like everyone, the volleyball team got new jerseys, the basketball team did, football, soccer, he got everyone like brand new jerseys, which is like the biggest thing because even if we were out there and we weren’t really winning, it felt like we were important and not to be wearing middle schooler jerseys that were torn,” Adrienne said.
After the news was leaked by a child of a school board member that Keith’s contract would not be renewed next year, Adrienne and Nagel decided to take a stand by wearing green wristbands.
The green wristbands are a reference to the Tinker vs. Des Moines Supreme Court ruling. Tinker vs. Des Moines is a historic Supreme Court ruling from 1969 that cemented students’ rights to free speech in public schools.
Mary Beth Tinker was a 13-year-old junior high school student in December 1965 when she and a group of students decided to wear black armbands to school to protest the war in Vietnam.
“Whenever we found out it was for sure and not just a rumor, it was devastating,” Adrienne said. “All of the sixth graders were crying in the cafeteria, everyone was like hugging each other because he really is like a second dad and everyone was so hurt by it and we didn’t understand why it was happening, so we wanted a way to explain how we felt, because we know that we’re kids, and we know it’s hard for an adult to look at us seriously when we’re just saying these things so we wanted to have a way for them to understand.”
Adrienne also sent an email to Bluff Dale Superintendent John Taylor, asking why he decided not to renew Keith’s contract, but he responded with, “No comment,” because it’s against the code of conduct to reveal information regarding another teacher to a student.
“As much as I would love to kind of clarify some of this, to talk about reasons, I'm not at liberty, of course, to visit about personnel matters [and] even if I could, I would not want to discuss those kinds of issues because I just want to protect personnel as well,” Taylor said. “This is what I explained to the students as well, is that as educators, we work under a code of ethics and should I choose to say anything about personnel matters, then I am violating the educator code of ethics to even do that so as much as I would love to explain the school’s side, I'm not at liberty to do that, and that’s always the situation that schools or government entities are in in these situations.”
Adrienne and Nagel passed out 100 green wristbands to students at Bluff Dale Middle School and Bluff Dale High School to organize the protest.
“He’s just been there for us constantly,” Nagel said. “Whenever we feel down about the games, he’s just there for us. Whenever we feel at our lowest and like defeated or something, he’s there for us. He picks us up and he’s like a second father.”
Nagel’s family is also trying to start a petition, saying they want Keith back for next year.
The final decision regarding Keith’s contract will be made on Thursday, April 25, at 5 p.m. at the school board meeting and both Adrienne and Nagel hope that their peaceful protest will make a difference.
“Anyone who is 18 or older can request for five minutes and his [Nagel’s] dad is going to be writing a speech on coach Hughes’ behalf,” Adrienne said. “We’re trying to get the entire student body to go and wear their wristbands just to silently support and even if people voted ‘No’ and coach Hughes left, it would still be amazing to have the awareness we had and to let everyone know and then maybe other people will see that and want to hire him at their schools or the school board will see that and think twice about the people that are being asked to leave next time.”