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Full message to Vista del Lago families regarding patriotic expression

Sept. 13, 2017

Vista Families:

In response to continued concerns among some of our families and students, I would like to take a moment to clarify some misinformation in our school community: First, I want to make clear that we have not prohibited students from chanting “USA” during athletic events or from expressing their patriotism while at school.

At some schools throughout the country, the subject of patriotic chants has recently and increasingly caused concern in different communities after allegations that students were inappropriately taunting athletic opponents of different ethnicities. Here at Vista del Lago, we have not received any such complaints. However, in our ongoing efforts to promote sportsmanship, empathy, and kindness, we have recently started a conversation with our students to ensure they fully think through their decisions before choosing how to express themselves.

Recently, I visited our student government class and asked 36 students to think about the best chants for athletic events. We asked these students to reflect on when chanting USA might seem appropriate, and when it didn’t quite fit the occasion. For example, chanting USA after the National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, or any other patriotic exercise at an event or school rally can make sense and illustrate how we are part of something much bigger than our individual selves.

During an athletic event, when Vista fans are in a competitive environment and cheering their school pride, chanting USA might be confusing. What is the intent, and is it open to misinterpretation? What would be the purpose at a sporting event? These are the questions I posed to student government students.

We also talked about empathy. Whether or not we intend to, sometimes we can communicate an unintended message to our recipients. And this is a larger conversation throughout school athletics; during a recent presentation on sportsmanship to area administrators by the California Interscholastic Federation, for example, principals were warned that this has become an increasing area of concern during high school sporting events, and we were encouraged to have conversations with their students.

I know our students: They are kind, thoughtful, accepting, and supportive of everyone. Consequently, I don’t want another school to ever question their motives or intentions. That’s why I brought this issue to their attention.

Regardless of anyone’s politics, my goal is to make sure we are building a positive school culture and maintaining trust in the community. I believe we can continue to show our patriotism and our love for our country at athletic events while also practicing empathy and positive intention.

I welcome any parent who has questions or concerns to reach out to me directly, and I’d be happy discuss further with you. Thank you for your continued partnership in the success of our students.

Lori Emmington, Principal