In the wake of a controversy involving a banner displayed at a recent football game between the Greenfield McClain Tigers and the Hillsboro Indians, members of the Greenfield McClain High School student council traveled to Hillsboro High School to meet with members of the HHS student council.
Tom Milbery, a former teacher and current member of the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education, wrote an account of the Nov. 2 meeting and shared it with The Times-Gazette.
The purpose of the meeting, wrote Milbery, “was to share thoughts and concerns about the banner incident that occurred at the schools’ final football game which drew state, national, and even international news coverage because of the reference to the ‘Trail of Tears.’”
Reaction to the banner was universally negative, Milbery noted, making its way to social media “where comments were particularly negative and reflected poorly on Highland County.”
“These student representatives were further asked to find ways to work together to prevent this from happening again and ways to turn this unfortunate incident into a positive learning experience for both school communities,” Milbery wrote.
The idea for the meeting came from Jason Snively, HHS principal, and his Greenfield counterpart, Jason Potts. “Both educators structured the meeting for the students with questions and a brief introduction. From that point the students took control of the meeting, which was held in a conference room utilizing a round table forum style,” wrote Milbery.
Potts, in his introduction, “explained the events which led to the creation of the banner which was discovered on Pinterest and was utilized by the McClain cheerleaders as a banner for their team. Neither Potts nor any other school administrator had seen the banner before its use at the game.”
In the spirit of an intense county rivalry, “the cheerleaders and their advisor, acting without any intention of malice or racism, created and used the banner,” Milbery wrote. “A snapshot was taken, placed on social media, and the story went viral.”
Potts explained that when he called the cheerleaders into his office the following Monday, “Every one of those youngsters had their heads down and were in tears,” Potts said, according to Milbery’s account. Greenfield schools immediately placed an apology on its Facebook page, but the ensuing comments “were so caustic that it had to be removed,” wrote Milbery.
Potts explained that he worked 10 hours on that Saturday and again on Sunday “and received communication from around the world.” The Greenfield school’s web page “has a well-crafted and heartfelt apology which appears first and foremost on its site,” wrote Milbery, who added that Potts “also explained numerous educational steps which will be used to educate McClain students on Native American culture, history and traditions.”
From Hillsboro’s perspective, Snively “expressed his appreciation for the steps taken by the Greenfield schools, and said that the world took it more seriously than the kids did. He challenged the student leaders to find ways to turn this adversity into something good to make for a friendlier rivalry.”
Snively explained that steps would be taken at Hillsboro to make students aware of the Native American culture and traditions which it represents.
“We want to represent and share the Native American’s traditions and culture in a positive way,” said Snively.
Milbery wrote that comments from the students demonstrated their concern as well. “One student commented how much it was appreciated that the Hillsboro cheerleaders reached out to show support for the Greenfield cheerleaders. Students also spoke about encouraging their peers to use social media in a way that best reflects themselves, their respective schools and the county. One very popular idea mentioned was a joint fundraiser to support a Native American organization or site such as Seip Mound or Serpent Mound.”
Milbery said, “I was so humbled and impressed with the thoughtful reflections of the students. I was also very impressed with the administrators and staffs from both schools for turning this unfortunate incident into a positive learning experience for the students and encouraging both schools to come together. I left the meeting very proud of our children from Highland County.”