Jackson Hole High School is getting some national attention for excluding something called “America day” from its homecoming festivities this year.
School administrators are defending and clarifying their decision—which drew protest from students and even garnered a reprimand from cable TV’s Fox & Friends.
“America day was never canceled,” says the school's activities director Mike Hansen. “It was never something that had been planned.”
Jackson students celebrate homecoming week every year with several dress-up days selected by student council and administration. This year’s themes included “lumberjack day” and “pajama/toga day.”
Two years ago, “America day” was among those themes, but administrators say some students felt the name—and day—carried an anti-immigrant connotation at the school. About one third of students at Jackson Hole High School are Latino. Some of those students are recent immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere.
Last year, the more inclusive “heritage day” was used. This year, student council organizers and many students wanted to bring back the patriotic dress-up day. But, after surveying the student body, school administrators said no.
“There was some concern that the intent was more about being anti-immigrant than being pro-American,” says Teton County School District’s Chief Operating Officer, Brad Barker. “I myself have served in combat with great American immigrants. Our strength really is a result of our diversity and that’s what we wanted to highlight—that inclusiveness. We did not want anything that had that tone of being anti-immigrant.”
The school’s decision not to include “America day” seems to have backfired—only bolstering the symbolic significance of—and tensions around—last week’s school spirit celebrations.
Many students who opposed the decision came to school on Wednesday’s “college day” dressed in red, white and blue garb. Activities director Mike Hansen says that was not a problem.
“We knew students were going to dress up on that day—wearing the flag and wearing red, white and blue,” says Hansen. “That was great. Students did and it was safe, and we had a great day. There were never any consequences for students who did. We absolutely have celebrated America at our school for a number of years in a number of different events.”
School officials say their goal was to create inclusive student activities during homecoming week. They say they should have better communicated with students and parents about their decision making process.
Here's that segment from Monday's Fox & Friends: