Two high schools in Orange County, Calif., have found themselves in the midst of controversy after allegedly racist signs were said to have been displayed at a local football game. Now, the principal of the school blamed in the incident is saying that this is all a misunderstanding that reflects how divided the country is.
According to Santa Ana High School Principal Jeff Bishop, his school’s football team was greeted by two signs saying, “We love white” and “Build the wall,” as the team approached the red-white-and-blue decorated field at Aliso Niguel High School on Friday. Although he tried at first to ignore the racially and politically charged messages, students cheering “USA” during the opponents’ touchdown was where he had to draw the line, as he said in a Facebook post.
“I could not ignore it anymore!” Bishop wrote on his personal timeline in Facebook. “After talking to the principal and watching her and her Assistant principals snag the signs away from these disrespectful and out of control students — it seemed to help. Afterwards, it became more about football, athleticism and a healthy competition between two high school football teams.”
Aliso Niguel High School Principal Deni Christensen’s recollection of that same evening is different, however. In a long statement posted to the high school’s Instagram page, Christensen addressed the concerns of students, parents, and Santa Ana High School, aiming to set the record straight about the patriotic theme of the event.
According to her statement, Friday night’s football game was part of a standing tradition at the school to recognize the tragic events of Sept. 11 at the home game closest to that date. “Our ASB students typically make spirit signs for each home game and did so for this game as well — in red, white and blue.” Christensen’s attention was brought to two signs in particular, which she told the Orange County Register said, “Bring back Obama” and “We’re going to Trump you,” and those signs were both removed from the stands. She said she had not seen anything pertaining to the wall.
Photos that Bishop also posted to his timeline of the posters displayed around the field also neglect to include that particular message.
In an additional statement provided to Yahoo Lifestyle, Christensen clarified that Aliso Niguel is “not an environment of intolerance,” although the messages may have been interpreted that way.
“We may have been shortsighted in planning and communicating the full intent of the event, but there was no widespread ill intent,” Christensen said. “This should be a chance for learning and growth and not widespread shaming of a school or students for what has become a national climate of divisiveness.”
The Los Angeles Times points out that “the enrollment at Santa Ana High is almost 99% Latino; Aliso Niguel’s student body is majority white,” which may contribute to Christensen’s interpretation of a divided-country narrative.
Bishop did not immediately reply to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. However, Christensen says that the two school districts plan to release a joint statement regarding the incident.
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