It was apparently a planned prank, but no one was laughing. Members of Snellville, Georgia’s Brookwood High School’s marching band are facing discipline after using instrument covers to spell out the racial slur “coon” during a halftime performance.

The students behind the little prank were also all minorities, prompting concerned parents to note the need to have more discussion about race and culture.

“This shows a need for conversations about race,” parent Marlyn Tillman, a Gwinnett the founder of Gwinnett SToPP, a nonprofit advocacy group, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “What propelled this? What lack of self-worth must these students have to do this?”

The marching band members who play the sousaphone (an instrument similar to the tuba), arranged themselves to spell out the word “coon” using the instrument covers that are usually used to spell out “Broncos” after the school mascot.

Brookwood Principal William Bo Ford Jr. sent out a letter to parents and the rest of the Brookwood community, expressing his “hurt” and disappointment.

“As promised, we started an investigation into this matter, and I wanted to share with you our current findings and the steps we are taking with the students who were involved,” Ford wrote. “After extensive interviews with many students, we have determined that three seniors intentionally planned and executed the use of the sousaphone covers to spell out a completely unacceptable, racist term. The fourth student, a junior, who carried one of the letters spelling out the word, appears to have gone along with the plan at the last minute. However, all four of the students knew what was going to happen and knew what they were spelling out during the halftime show.”

Ford said that the students – two Black students, one Asian student and one Hispanic student – all acknowledged that they knew the word was racist and unacceptable.

“I am hurt and disappointed in these students and their actions that have stunned our community. As you all know, this is not who we are. Brookwood is proud to be an inclusive and accepting school community,”  Ford added.  “This is a teachable moment for all of us, and students need to be aware that their actions and words have consequences.”

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