Jackson Hole High School administrators canceled the homecoming tradition of America Day this year, but many students still donned their red, white and blue on Wednesday.
The senior class and many juniors protested Activities Director Mike Hansen’s decision to put a stop to the tradition by wrapping American flags around their shoulders, sporting shorts with stars and stripes and even driving a diesel truck around the parking lot waving American flags after school.
Hansen said he was worried the event made some students feel shut out.
Parents took to social media to show their support for the civilly disobedient students and disparage the school’s “political correctness.”
“It’s homecoming week and our school administration thought it was too ‘offensive’ to have an America Pride Day! So this is my kids answer to that!” Ted Dawson said with a Facebook post of his kids adorned in patriotic colors. “Where have we gone so wrong! I don’t care what race or religion you are, you live here, benefit from the schools, enjoy tax benefits or whatever — your [sic] an American or at least you better be!”
Hansen said he wasn’t against the school supporting patriotism, but after meeting with the student council and hearing comments he saw that a number of students didn’t feel American and felt “targeted and singled out by this day.”
The district has a large Latino population, though administrators didn’t point to any group.
“Many different students could have felt singled out,” Hansen said. “Maybe they moved here last week. Maybe they moved here last month.
“We’re trying to balance many different things here. We’re trying to be inclusive and safe, make everyone feel welcome.”
Principal Scott Crisp said that it was not the spirit of the theme, but that a student survey noted that it might have been the name itself that caused some students to feel excluded.
“Three times as many students indicated that they were not in support of selecting the title ‘America Day,’ ” Crisp said. “I’m charged with looking at a school with 660 kids, and I have to ensure that all those kids feel part of a student body. Regardless of the name of the day, we want to ensure that activities of the week … bring our students together holistically as a student body.”
But students voted for America Day. It was the third most popular theme.
Some students felt replacing it with College Day was more marginalizing.
“What if you can’t afford college?” 17-year-old senior Harry Burt asked. “There’s a lot of kids here that can’t afford college. College is not an option for them. It’s more discriminatory.”
Henry Jones, a 17-year-old senior considering a Montana State University trade school over conventional college, said he just would not have participated in the activities if he did not have an alternative to College Day.
“I’m not offended,” he said. “I would have just worn my regular clothes.”