Hilton Head Island, S.C. (WTGS) — Students, parents and community members gathered in the parking lot across from Hilton Head High School at 8 a.m. Thursday morning for a rally in support of Principal Amanda O’Nan.
O'Nan is on administrative leave while an investigation is underway into allegations of improper conduct.
The students stood as a group with posters that said “I stand with O’Nan.”
"I’m here to support a principal, my principal, who has supported me over the past four years," said one of the student leaders, Sam Gilman.
"We come out here standing for a woman that we respect and love and we’re just here to support her. We want her reinstated until the legal process runs it’s course," said another student leader, Zach Waters.
Students spoke, saying she has taken the school to an exceptional level of success and has been a great leader.
"If you just look at the facts she’s done so much. When she came to the school it was ranked as a drop out factory and six years later in 2012 the school was named one of Palmetto’s finest," said Gilman.
Community members agree with them.
"It’s been amazing what she has done to turn the high school around," said Jan Davis Vater, whose children graduate from HHIHS a few years ago.
"She's an advocate for public education, she’s made a tremendous difference in the school over the years," said town council member David Ames.
Parents in the crowd said the investigation is looking into a personal matter that should be separated from her professional life.
"I feel this is a personal issue not a professional issue so I do not understand why a big deal is being made out of this whether it’s true or not," said Jennifer Palmer, a mother.
They also said she was already cleared in this same investigation in 2016. They said they believe the situation is having a negative effect on the students.
"They’re seeing that hearsay has weight," said Palmer.
Students and parents said they want O’Nan to remain in the school during the investigation because she deserves to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
The Beaufort County School District said the rally was not a school sanctioned event, but they support the right for students to speak their minds.
"It’s an outstanding school with terrific students and those students are encouraged to be confident and assertive and voice their opinion‘s and the students did that today," said Jim Foster, communications director for the district.
Students have also started a petition on paper and on change.org in support of the principal.
The district says O’Nan will remain on administrative leave until the review of the investigation is finished.