An Arkansas high school cheerleading squad is under fire after holding a pre-game banner that, per some observers, was a partisan political message inappropriate for a public high school, Yahoo Lifestyle reports. The banner said, “Make America Great Again” and “Trump The Leopards!”
Last Friday, the cheerleaders from Lake Hamilton High School in Pearcy were getting ready to face off against the Leopards of Malvern High School. As high school cheerleaders often do, the Pearcy cheerleaders held up a paper banner for the players to run through. And this particular banner displayed either a clever pun based on recent news, or a partisan political message that was inappropriate for a public school.
“Make America Great Again. Trump The Leopards!”
Some residents around Malvern were certainly not impressed. Facebook user Tristan A. Taylor posted a picture of the banner, and noted that Malvern High School has a large population of Latino and African American students, while Lake Hamilton’s student body is overwhelmingly white. Trump and his administration have been accused by some critics of advancing policies and positions that are unfavorable to minorities.
“Lake Hamilton this is not a good look,” Taylor wrote.
Besides rankling at least one resident around Malvern, the issue has become a political one among a couple of Arkansas politicians as well.
State Sen. Joyce Elliott certainly believes that the sign was a political statement, and out of turn for a public high school. She said as much in a tweet.
If this is a public school, this is totally inappropriate. If it’s a private school, it’s poor judgment. We are all entitled to our politics of choice but not to using public entities to advance our politics. pic.twitter.com/sOUrapPIkT— Joyce Elliott (@xjelliott) September 15, 2019
Another Arkansas politician, however, thinks Elliott’s reaction is over the top. Not long after Elliott posted her tweet, State Representative Aaron Pilkington responded.
“Chill out, it’s funny. It’s a play on words. God forbid kids use political slogans to make a joke about beating a team in football,” he wrote.
Can Public School Students Endorse Political Candidates Or Causes?
The answer is ambiguous, to put it mildly.
Writing in Education Week in 2013, Julie Underwood attempted to break down the intersecting rules, regulations, and best practices when it comes to political speech at school. Regarding this particular case, schoolchildren are allowed to advocate their political views at school. However, school officials may not “take advantage of their position of authority over a captive audience to promote their own political views.”
In the case of the Lake Hamilton cheerleaders, however, the political expression seems to have come from the young ladies themselves, and not a school official. It remains unclear whether or not a faculty member approved the young ladies’ sign, or if they came up with it on their own without the approval of a faculty member.
Trump On Campus
This is not the first time support for Donald Trump and free speech at public schools have intersected. In Pennsylvania, for example, as reported by The Inquisitr, two students showed up wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, only to find the words on their hats blurred out when their pictures were printed in the yearbook. And in New Hampshire, as reported by The Inquisitr, a school made a student cover up her pro-Trump t-shirt and take off her “Make America Great Again” hat.