The Greenfield Exempted Village School District board of education has called a special meeting for Friday evening to consider a resolution to terminate the employment of its football and basketball cheerleading advisor.
The meeting comes in the wake of a controversy over a banner that was displayed last Friday in Hillsboro where the Greenfield McClain Tigers were playing a football game against the Hillsboro Indians.
The banner displayed by the McClain cheerleaders read, “Hey Indians, Get Ready for a Trail of Tears Part 2.” The reference to the Trail of Tears, which was the forced migration of the Cherokee nation in 1838 and 1839 where thousands died en route to land west of the Mississippi River, sparked widespread attention and criticism and led to hundreds of phone calls to school officials.
The next day, McClain principal Jason Potts issued a statement apologizing and saying the banner should have been reviewed beforehand and approved by the cheerleaders’ advisor. He later told The Times-Gazette of numerous steps the school is taking to educate students, including going to one of the several Native American sites nearby – Hopewell Culture, Seip Mound, Serpent Mound – and volunteering.
On Thursday, the school issued a notice stating that a board meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4 at the school’s boardroom. The meeting will include an executive session, followed by a “resolution to terminate employment – Patty Shelton, 2016-2017 Cheerleading Advisor, Football & Basketball,” according to the notice.
Greenfield Exempted Village School District Superintendent Joe Wills said earlier this week that he became aware of the content of the banner, and the fact that it had already been posted to the Internet, from a Greenfield person during the game. There was no other talk about the banner that he heard during the game, he said.
According to Wills, the school administrators spoke throughout last weekend about how to best address the situation.
Last Monday, Potts said all English classes in the high school were reading a journal account written by someone who was a part of the Trail of Tears. All social studies classes on Monday were engaged in learning about the 19th century event, too, he said. Students were also to engage in group discussions.
Also on Monday, Potts said a member of the cheerleading squad speaking for the group as a whole recorded an audio message, an apology to the students and staff who have been impacted by the outcry.
On Wednesday, the McClain student council was to meet with the Hillsboro High School student council to talk about the issue surrounding the banner, a suggestion by Hillsboro High School principal Jason Snively, Potts said.
Potts was adamant that the girls’ intent was not one of racially-motivated malice. He said he has known all the girls for six and seven years, and the cruel backlash received from across the nation is not warranted for the teenagers who found their idea for the banner on Pinterest.
The banner should have been reviewed beforehand, he said, and approved by the cheerleaders’ advisor. He said he wasn’t aware of the banner until he arrived at the game during the second half.
Snively, the Hillsboro High School principal, said his reaction to the banner was that it “was probably not the best way to put things” as the content of the banner could “be taken out of context, hurtful.” But he realized that the banner was the work of “young adolescents,” he said. “I honestly don’t believe it was meant out of hate for any culture.”
Neither Wills nor Shelton could be reached Thursday evening.