A Pennsylvania school principal who faced backlash after dressing as comedic game show host Steve Harvey got permission from the superintendent to wear the offensive getup, damning new emails reveal.
Lisa Boyer, principal of Friendship Elementary School in York County, Pa., was the topic of controversy earlier this year after photos surfaced of her wearing blackface during a faculty team-building exercise last August, in which she dressed up as the “Family Feud” host.
Emails obtained by the York Daily Record show that Boyer reached out to Southern York County superintendent Sandra Lemmon to see if her costume would be “okay” for the teachers-only meeting, a request that was met with a resounding “Yes!!!!”
“I was going to just do this, but then I thought that I should make sure,” Boyer wrote in an email to Lemmon dated August 15. “At the end of our first faculty meeting, we’re playing the game Family Feud. I actually purchased stuff for a Steve Harvey costume. He’s the host. Is this okay?”
Boyer even attached a head-shot of the emcee before hitting the “send” button on her request, the newspaper reported.
Lemmon took only a minute to respond to the email, according to timestamps on the message, and willingly gave Boyer the green light to dress in the racist costume.
Not everyone was as enthusiastic, however. Boyer stunned her colleagues at the August 20 meeting where, aside from darkening her skin, she donned a oversized pant suit, a durag and a phony mustache.
Days later, both the principal and superintendent found themselves issuing an apology.
“I wanted to let you know, today during the Friendship faculty meeting, Lisa Boyer planned a team building activity using the Family Feud game” Lemmon wrote in an email to the school board that day. “During this time, she actually dressed up as Steve Harvey in full costume. Several staff members expressed how they were highly offended and actually called the Teacher’s Association.”
Lemmon wrote that while it wasn’t “[Boyer’s] intent to offend anyone,” she would be issuing an apology of her own to the staff the following morning.
The principal’s apology filled faculty’s inbox by that evening, the Daily Record reported. In it, Boyer said she was only looking to “have a little” fun by impersonating Harvey, 62, but expressed regret over possibly offending anyone with her costume.
“When I ordered [this] head piece, I used the brown makeup to blend it into my face. I sincerely apologize if that was seen in any other context than what it was,” she wrote. “I was in no way trying to be disrespectful by mocking an African American person. Anyone who knows me knows that that is not in my nature. I would never do something like that.”
Boyer, who claimed it was the “perfectionist” in her that led to her to go the extra mile in impersonating Harvey, urged staff to delete any pictures and videos they had from the event. The damage was already done, however, after Danny Boyce, a former food contractor employee, posted the photos to social media.
Boyce was upset and said he felt the district was trying to sweep the incident under the rug.
The district immediately launched an investigation and Boyer was reportedly disciplined, although the details of her punishment were never made public. Lemmon declined to elaborate on the issue, calling it a “personnel” matter.
The school district later released the following statement:
“After completing the investigation, the principal was disciplined and apologized to school staff who were present for the incident. The central office administration also made clear to the principal that such conduct violated both the letter and the spirit of the School District’s nondiscrimination policies.”
“This matter was not ‘swept under the rug,'” it continued. “It was promptly addressed, and it was made clear that this incident was inappropriate within the school setting.”