Seattle high school nixes red, white and blue 9/11 tribute for fear of ‘offending’ students

Staff punts on student initiative to wear red, white and blue to football game as a tribute to the 20th anniversary of 9/11 for fear of being “racially insensitive.” 

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Students and parents at a Seattle-area high school were stunned to learn school staff cancelled a 9/11 tribute for fear of offending some students.

The students of Eastlake High School, in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, wanted to pay tribute to the 9/11 attacks by wearing red, white and blue to a football game the day before the attack’s 20th anniversary.

The match pitted the Eastlake Wolves on the road against the Rainier Beach Vikings.

Although the school’s colors are burgundy and black, the day before the game, the Eastlakes Facebook page declared “Red White and Blue Friday! Dress in your USA best!” The post featured the U.S. flag.

According to an email obtained by Seattle radio personality Jason Rantz, Eastlake staff pulled the plug on the initiative.

“Our leadership teachers made this decision and explained it to students,” Principal Chris Bede wrote to parents. “I know tomorrow is 9/11 and understand the sacrifice and values our flag represents, but I think they just did not want to unintentionally cause offense to some who see it differently.”

Officials from Eastlake and the Lake Washington School district explained who would take offense, or why wearing red, white and blue was offensive.

In a statement to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, school district spokesperson Shannon Parthemer said, “Since it was not a home game, there was no opportunity to have an announcement about Patriot’s Day and to share why students were dressed in red, white and blue.”

But according to Rantz, Eastlake could have notified Rainier Beach, and an announcement could have been made at the game.

Other emails seen by Rantz suggest that Bede was caught off guard by the cancellation. Though students were still free to wear the national colors, they would not be specifically asked to do so.

“I understand your perspective and was not looped into this conversation until an hour ago,” he wrote to one parent. “I do want to clarify that schools do not have a right to ban students from wearing anything as long as it is not lewd, vulgar etc.. And the theme of red, white and blue definitely would not fit into that category.”

Students and parents were disappointed by the decision.

“I was instantly upset, and frustrated,” one student emailed Rantz. “If Eastlake is all about including everyone’s beliefs and being together as a ‘family,’ then why are we being told we can’t represent the country we live in? I have seen other LWSD [Lake Washington School District] football teams that held a flag or did some sort of memorial recognition towards 9/11, but apparently we weren’t allowed to even wear USA colors.”

Another student said, “They had explained that red white and blue was going to be seen as racially insensitive and may affect people in a way that we will not understand and for that reason that we were to change our theme.”

And one parent speculated on the school’s Facebook page, “The leadership and equity team decided that since it was against a predominantly black team they did not want to ‘unintentionally cause offense to some who see (our flag) differently.”

Eastlake beat Rainier Beach 17-16.