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MCHS reviews approval process for themes at athletic games

2/10/2017

By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer

Controversy has swirled via social media following a “White Trash Bash” themed event at a recent Montgomery County High School basketball game.

The theme was selected in advance by the student cheering section known as The Blue Crew for a recent Montgomery-Clark double-header.
A number of students, faculty and community members complained to school administrators about the theme for the event, which they considered inappropriate.

Student leader Jackson Campbell told the Advocate that the theme was “offensive, derogatory and discriminatory,” but has been assured that events like that will no longer be permitted.

“We were very glad to have had the support and backing of the administration and superintendent’s office to make sure inappropriate things like this will not happen again and to make sure that our students are as safe as they can be.”

Campbell serves as junior class president at MCHS and is founder of the Happy Club, a school group that opposes bullying and harassment of students.

Allowing events such as “White Trash Bash,” he claims, opens the door for other inappropriate activity and potentially threatens the safety of other students.

“There’s been a lot of controversy recently with racial tension in our country and in our school,” Campbell said. “Using the term ‘White Trash Bash’ opens the door for other inappropriate themes or derogatory themes that they may choose to do. It justifies using inappropriate themes that could hurt people. We want to make sure MCHS is a safe place for every student. We want it to be a place where all students feel welcome.”

Some students on social media expressed the belief that it is students like Campbell who are taking things too far.

“Literally you just ruined everything for everyone,” one student wrote on social media in response to the incident. “We were all just having fun. But it got blown way up. Nobody was complaining until you brought it up.”
Another student agreed on a social media post.

“I don’t understand why everyone is making a big deal out of this,” the student wrote. “I think it’s time for everyone to grow up and get over them selfs (sic). We are in high school and we are kids, we like to have fun and if adults don’t like it then they are just going to have to get over it if it is not their child they have no right to put other children down. They didn’t make the name to be racist, they did it for fun. They were probably not even thinking about it being that way until someone who has had no right to point it out and cause a big scene out of it.”

Tabitha Rodgers Campbell posted that the students involved did nothing inappropriate whatsoever.

“I sat behind these students at that said ball game,” Campbell wrote. “They were in no way disrespectful to anyone that I could tell. There was no racial disrespect. Just teens having fun.”

Another post, from Sarah Mac, however, applauded Campbell for taking action.

“Proud of you Jackson for standing up for what you believe in,” she wrote. “I’m glad there are young men out there willing to speak up when things become insensitive. Keep fighting the good fight, and brush the haters off your shoulder.”

Crystal Dempsey-Gillum said, “Great job Jackson. I’m glad you stood up for what you felt was right even in the face of harsh criticism from some of your peers (and grown adults). Thanks to you, I won’t have to deal with this when my children get to high school.”

While it may have seemed good fun for some students, Campbell told the Advocate that others see it as potentially threatening.
“Many people have defended it as students just having fun, but my problem is it opens the door to other inappropriate themes and other inappropriate behavior in our school that cannot happen,” he said. “To relieve racial tension we cannot have these things happen.”
Superintendent Matt Thompson told the Advocate that there are lessons to be learned from what happened.

“We are using this situation as a teachable moment for our students,” Thompson said. “Last week the high school administration, athletic director and district administration met to discuss how to help strengthen our students’ understanding that, while we want our athletic activities to be fun and exciting for all of our fans, it is also important to make sure that everything is done in good taste. And while our students’ behavior at the game was very good, we want them to understand why questions have been raised about the theme.

“The high school also reviewed and strengthened the approval process for themes to ensure that our students’ school spirit is focused on supporting our Montgomery County teams in a positive and appropriate manner,” he added.