Elementary school principal inadvertently stirs up controversy

ALEXANDER CITY, AL (WSFA) - Early November 2001, hundreds of children at Pearson Elementary School in Alex City put their hand prints on the school sign, prints that made up the American flag, all done in memory of those who died on 9-11.

It remained that way until two weeks ago. The sign is now clean and painted over. The prints? Gone forever.

Kenny Dean is livid. "I need someone to tell me why?" Dean said.

A native of Alex City, Dean is the host of 'Front Porch,' a morning TV talk show on WAXC. Dean brought it up on the air and the switchboard lit up. It reached a boiling point when a grandmother called in tears.

"She said her granddaughter went to that school and her hand prints were on it," Dean recalled.

We're told the school principal Pam Langford was out sick today but Alex City School Superintendent Lou Ann Wagoner tells WSFA 12 News this was truly 'an innocent mistake.'

Langford wanted to spruce up the school for the new year, consulted with a few teachers but apparently was unaware of the significance of what the children did nearly two months after 9-11.

Wagoner added she and Langford are 'terribly sorry.' A lot of hurt feelings in Alex City.

"I've had three children go through the school," Dean said.

Wagoner also says the school will try to make amends.

One idea is to have students who attend Pearson Elementary now put their hand prints on the back of the sign proclaiming them 'Leaders of the Future.'

On the school response, Kenny Dean said:

"This wasn't well thought out, sprucing up the school is one thing but painting over an American flag made with hand prints is another."

With the 10-year anniversary of 9-11 coming up, people like Kenny Dean say while the hand print memorial has been wiped away, what will always remain is the memory of what those children did on that cool November day 10-years ago.

Pearson has grades K-2 with an enrollment of around 700.

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