The red, white, and blue theme for a September 10 high school football game was canceled by school staff out of concern that some may find such a theme “racially insensitive.” To many Americans, what could have been a touching moment of student-led patriotism turned into a disappointing occasion for students at Eastlake High School in Sammamish, Washington.
The game had initially been canceled but then was rescheduled for September 10. With the 20th anniversary of September 11 so close, students wanted to do something to pay tribute. Though they had not been born before 9/11, they knew that the horrific events of that day changed America forever. They also felt that history can often be lost on young Americans. This is what prompted Eastlake students to lead a movement to honor the lives taken from the terrorist attacks.
But students were told the morning of the game that the school would not endorse a Patriot Day-themed event.
One mother emailed Principal Chris Bede to find out what happened and was caught off guard by what he said.
“Our leadership teachers made this decision and explained it to students,” Bede responded. “I know tomorrow is 9/11 and understand the sacrifice and values our flag represents, but I think they just did not want to unintentionally cause offense to some who see it differently.”
Students were frustrated and disappointed by the school’s decision. They couldn’t understand why the school would cancel a theme that honored the nearly 3,000 lives lost from the Islamic extremist attacks on September 11, 2001. Many of them contacted the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to express their concerns.
“At this point, I was fairly upset and confused as to why the theme was changed so I went around asking students in our leadership,” one student shares. “They had explained that red, white, and blue was going to be seen as racially insensitive and may affect people in a way that we will not understand and for that reason that we were to change our theme.”
“I was instantly upset, and frustrated,” another student writes. “If Eastlake is all about including everyone’s beliefs and being together as a ‘family,’ then why are we being told we can’t represent the country we live in? I have seen other football teams that held a flag or did some sort of memorial recognition towards 9/11, but apparently we weren’t allowed to even wear USA colors.”
The district communications director, Shannon Parthemer, sent an explanation in a statement to the Jason Rantz Show.
“Since it was not a home game, there was no opportunity to have an announcement about Patriot’s Day and to share why students were dressed in red, white, and blue,” Parthemer shares.
Parthemer says the cancelation was not related to the opposing team. Instead, it was a decision made by an unnamed staff member. The school has not specified who would be offended by the red, white, and blue colors.
Principal Bede was allegedly caught off guard by the canceled theme.
“I understand your perspective and was not looped into this conversation until an hour ago,” he informs a parent. “I do want to clarify that schools do not have a right to ban students from wearing anything as long as it is not lewd, vulgar, etc. And the theme of red, white, and blue definitely would not fit into that category.”
The mother who had emailed Principal Bede shows her frustrations.
“There is always the potential that someone may be offended by something but this decision baffles me,” she says. “I would argue that many more people are offended by the decision to ban the theme of wearing red, white and blue. If there is one thing that has the potential to unite us all, it’s that we are Americans.”
Some students still came to the game in red, white, and blue, but the school did not sponsor the tribute.
What do you think of the students who wanted to pay tribute to the fallen victims of 9/11? And what are your thoughts on the school’s decision to cancel the tribute?