A controversy over a cancelled game day theme on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary has divided Eastlake High School’s student body, with students unable to agree on whether the cancellation by teachers was justified.
Students had proposed to dress in red, white and blue spirit colors to an away football game in Seattle on Sept. 10, but during the morning of the game, teachers abruptly cancelled the theme without explanation.
This incident was then spotlighted by mainly conservative media outlets, and Eastlake ended up receiving complaints and threats from across the country.
Jarred and confused by the sudden negative publicity, Eastlake students held an after-school meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14 to reflect on what happened during the preceding days.
During the discussion and afterwards, sharp disagreements came out over whether wearing flag colors was an appropriate commemoration for 9/11.
One student, who took issue with the theme, said during the meeting that the idea to wear red, white and blue spirit wear was not befitting of the solemn occasion that is 9/11.
However Peter Khawand, a senior at Eastlake, disagreed.
“It is not a celebration of 9/11 but rather a celebration of unity through difference…students had the intent to celebrate America’s perseverance,” Khawand said to the Sammamish Independent.
The cancellation by teachers was not a ban, and some students who attended the game showed up in red, white and blue colors anyways.
Although students disagreed on whether the theme was appropriate, they were nearly unanimous in faulting staff for suddenly cancelling the theme without providing an explanation.
Even the student who made the Friday morning announcement of the cancellation, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “I wasn’t prepared for them to change it.”
While students had mixed feelings about what happened, they agreed that the backlash was uncalled for. After staff received numerous threats, the school was forced to go into partial lockdown and bring in extra security on campus.
“I think people need to find something else to obsess over, like who sends threats over a football game?” said another Eastlake student who preferred to remain anonymous.
In response to the barrage of negative publicity the school received, some parents decided to show their support for Eastlake’s staff.
Keren Pruitt, a parent of an Eastlake student, reached out on Facebook to invite other parents to join her in funding a pizza appreciation lunch for Eastlake staff. More than 60 parents responded and the lunch was delivered on Sept. 22.
“I know that any decision that was made was not made in malice, and it just felt so wrong that they [staff] were only hearing these horrible comments and that they weren’t hearing from the rest of the community which are totally supportive,” Pruitt said in an interview.
Some parents also sent notes of appreciation to the staff for their work to keep students safe at school.
Pruitt believes that regardless of fault, people should not take out their frustration on school staff.
“They are people trying to do their job, and it’s not an easy job,” she said.