Students in Polson, Montana, turned their high school homecoming tradition into a White Power statement this year. On Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, two high school students participating in a traditional homecoming activity called “Color Wars” turned the day into an opportunity to wear clothing on which was written “White Power” and “Redneck,” depicted the Confederate battle flag, and said “Trump White Power 2016” on the back.
Superintendent Rex Weltz of the Polson School District issued a statement on Friday, which was published in its entirety by KTMF. The statement explains the traditional Polson high school homecoming activity, Color Wars, which Weltz told the Missoulian has been a Polson tradition for at least 10 years and has proved the most popular of various Homecoming Week activities.
Each class in the high school is assigned an individual color in which they should dress in order to compete in a contest to see which class had the most students wearing their assigned color. The winner is determined by taking class photos on the school bleachers and then counting the number of students wearing their assigned color. The class with the most students wearing their color wins. In this instance, freshmen were assigned to wear green, sophomores were given the color blue, juniors were to wear white, and seniors were assigned to wear black. The two students who wore the white “White Power” shirts were juniors.
In his statement, Weltz described the “inexcusable incident” that took place in the high school on Thursday, in which two students decided to wear what he deemed “offensive and inappropriate” clothing for the Color Wars day. Before staff members knew what the students had done, pictures of the students wearing the clothing on which “White Power” had been written were posted to social media where the controversial photos were circulated far beyond Polson High. Some people blurred out the faces of the two juniors involved, but some did not.
The Missoulian reports that the social media posts containing images of the students’ “White Power” tees quickly caused a social media firestorm. Rumors swirled, alleging that a large number of students had worn the offensive tees and accusing the school district of not taking any action against them.
— Jozi (@Jonz77) September 30, 2016
The superintendent made it clear that the staff at Polson High had “immediately” acted to correct the situation as soon as they learned of the offensive clothing and had not condoned the students’ behavior. Although they acted right away to speak to the students regarding their clothing, Weltz tells the Missoulian that he does not know how long the students wore the “White Power” tees before high school staff learned of the tees, but notes that many students wear jackets or sweatshirts which would hide the tees underneath. The Washington Post reports that the students were immediately told to change out of the offensive clothing, and they did so immediately.
The incident is reminiscent of a high school basketball game that occurred in Texas last year. According to the Inquisitr, students in bleachers waved signs reading “White Power” at the rival team. It was reported that the students also defecated on their opponents’ bus. Images of the signs circulated quickly on social media.
Harassment and discrimination in any form is not tolerated by the Polson School District, said Weltz. The statement concludes by praising the students who condemned the White Power message on the clothing and expressed dismay and disappointment in the actions of the students who had worn the garb. He promised that the students would be disciplined according to Polson High School policy.
“We applaud the students who stood up against this conduct and will continue to
educate all of our students about our policies and practices forbidding
discrimination in any form.”
Polson is located on the Flathead Indian Reservation, according to the Washington Post; however, there is a large population of non-natives living there. Dustin Moore, an advocate for Native American rights and the founder and CEO of Native Generational Change in Missoula, is asking people to peacefully rally against the “racist incident” at tonight’s Polson High School homecoming game. The Missoulian reports that he has suggested that people carry signs with slogans such as “Unite Against Racism,” “Native Lives Matter,” and “Stand Against Racism.”
[Featured Image by Michael Chamberlin/Shutterstock]