by: Tina Terry Updated:
SALISBURY, N.C. - Teachers and staff from the Rowan-Salisbury school district are facing major backlash for using hand signs to represent their school system's new motto Extraordinary Education Everyday.
Some parents said it's too similar to gang signs and now they're calling on the district to stop using them.
Eyewitness News reporter Tina Terry went to the superintendent for answers and she's now apologizing for the misunderstanding.
Superintendent Lynn Moody apologized for offending anyone and said the hand sign was simply a way to drive home the district's new motto and not to promote gang violence.
Rowan-Salisbury school leaders said the hand signs seen in pictures posted on Twitter were meant to demonstrate the letter “E” and the number “3” to represent the new motto.
A concerned citizen sent them to community activist Kenneth Hardin and he wasn’t thinking “education.”
"There are a lot of people hurting in the community who didn't see that as an education initiative," Hardin said.
Hardin has been working with local neighborhoods to combat gun and gang violence in Salisbury and he said gangs are a growing problem there.
For example, 13-year-old Treasure Feamster was shot to death in 2007 as a result of being in the crossfire of a gang fight.
He said the signs thrown up by teachers and administrators send the wrong signal to young people.
He posted the pictures on Facebook and some felt the same way while others could see the good in it.
“The feedback was that it was a level of insensitivity and a lack of awareness on part of school system," Hardin said. “I understand what they're trying to do in terms of getting kids involved in school and being excellent.”
Moody said the hand sign was never intended to encourage negative behavior.
She said the district would refrain from using the hand sign as a visual for the new logo.
Police confirmed there are gangs in Salisbury called sets and said many are affiliated with the Crips and the Bloods gangs.
They wouldn't comment about these hand signs.