Decorations put up as part of the hallway contest for Spirit Week at Dawson Springs Jr./Sr. High School has created a stir on social media and prompted the superintendent to release a statement.
Each year, Spirit Week, the week before basketball homecoming games and dances, culminates with a hallway-decorating contest among the grade levels. This year, the sophomore class and its officers chose “Trump the Aces” as its theme. The Dawson Springs Panther basketball teams were set to face the Frederick Fraize Aces during the homecoming matchup.
The sophomores decorated the hall with a Trump election banner as well as the theme banner with patriotic pieces.
The winners of various spirited activities were announced at a pep rally on Friday morning. The hallways are judged on use of space, color, originality and overall spirit, said High School Principal Todd Marshall. Decorations must be up by 7:30 a.m. Friday and they are usually taken down by the end of the day.
Friday afternoon, a Facebook post from The Kentucky Trial Court Review and a Twitter post from Shannon Ragland showed additional decorations not in the original display. The added decorations featured references to Mexico and a makeshift “wall” plastered with memes of President Donald Trump. “I saw it on a Twitter feed,” said Superintendent Lenny Whalen of Dawson Springs Independent Schools. Whalen said he doesn’t know who put the additional decorations up or when they placed them for display.
The social media posts featured several hundred comments, some agreeing with the class’s action and more disagreeing with the decorations.
Before the posts, neither he nor the principal or assistant principal saw the controversial items in the hallway, Whalen said.
Marshall and Assistant Principal Kent Workman were in the hall during class changes and did not see the decorations, he added. Some adults did see the controversial pieces and they raised their eyebrows to it, but they didn’t take their concerns to the administration, Whalen told The Progress on Monday night.
“(It’s) not really appropriate for our spirit week, you know, pumping up our team or team support,” he said. “... It just didn’t feed in any way, shape or form into any of that.”
The district received one call from an upset parent, Whalen said.
That same parent contacted this newspaper and said she was put-off by the decorations and the district’s reaction to her concerns. Her son is a lower primary student at Dawson Springs Elementary School. She asked that her name not be used.
“I was appalled by the decorations that were (allowed) to be put up in the school,” she said. “... I’m Hispanic and it honestly makes me feel uncomfortable thinking about even having to sign into that school now with that name when I visit my son at the school.”
She said she shared her thoughts with the superintendent, who told her the news release addressed the situation and ended the call after she expressed interest in transferring her son to West Hopkins.
She told The Progress on Tuesday that she spoke with the school board and her son, and he will finish out this school year before transferring.
The issue will create more structured requirements for next year’s contest, Whalen said. He is looking into policies associated with political expression.
“We want our kids to be critical thinkers ...,” Whalen said. “We want to make sure that if they’re thinking along political lines, students have the right to express their thoughts and things of that nature, but it just has to be in an appropriate way. It can’t be in an offensive manner or in a divisive manner ... I just don’t think it was very well thought through, to be honest with you.”