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With ‘Merica, it can get complicated

South Boston News / September 28, 2017
Spirit Week at Halifax County High School came with a new Monday celebration — Wacky Tacky Day — and a spirit of outrage playing out on social media once the planned theme event, ‘Merica Day, was shelved.

On Facebook and elsewhere, some saw the switch as a way to keep the American flag from being displayed at HCHS. But that’s not so, said school officials.

Instead, the cancellation of ‘Merica Day was based on concerns that students would use the occasion to air their views on controversial topics — from the Black Lives Matter movement to the display of the Confederate flag.

“That was part of it,” conceded Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg.

Departing from recent tradition, HCHS shelved Red White & Blue Day, renamed this year as ‘Merica Day, as the kickoff event Monday for the high school’s Homecoming Week. HCHS Principal Michael Lewis said he made the decision Friday to come up with the new theme after receiving word that students were worried about what might happen on ‘Merica Day.

The Oxford Living Dictionary defines ‘Merica as a slang word used “specially to emphasize qualities regarded as stereotypically American, such as materialism or fervent patriotism,” providing an example: “over here in ‘Merica we do what we want.” The online resource describes the term as humorous.

At HCHS, however, ‘Merica Day — and the reactions it provoked among students — proved more ominous than amusing.

While acknowledging that “I’m not 100 percent familiar with that term,” Lewis said “what I do know about this situation as it was being advertised, is that was stirring up controversy on social media among students. My job here is the safety and education of students, and because of the information I received we changed [the theme day].

“It was not an attempt to take America out of the high school, it was not an attempt to tell students that you can’t wear clothing with American flags. We have American flags posted throughout the school every day. We participate in the Pledge of Allegiance every day …. In no way, shape or form was it a way to take the American flag out of the high school,” he said.

After consulting with the school’s SCA counselor on a substitute theme day, Lewis said he chose Wacky Tacky Day as something that students would enjoy.

Lewis’s decision drew the full support of the school division’s new superintendent. Lewis “feels like he’s got a good climate over there [at HCHS] and he didn’t want to risk that,” said Lineburg.

“This is not about anybody’s freedom of expression,” Lineburg added, noting, “It’s a tough time right now [politically] and I think that plays out in school every day.”

While political divisions may exist, they should not get in the way of student learning, Lineburg said — nor be allowed to undo the cohesion within the building.

“I see great kids who do great things who love each other [at HCHS]. You just try to hold on to that.”

Acknowledging negative reaction among some in the public after ‘Merica Day was shelved, Lineburg said the decision hadn’t been an easy one: Lewis is “hurting over the controversy right now. He’s trying to serve the community the very best he can.”

In years past and again on Monday, Red White & Blue Day and ‘Merica Day have stood as invitations for students to come to school dressed in variations of the America flag. Yet there’s nothing explicitly in the student dress code that bars a person from wearing clothes that nod towards more controversial subjects, such as the BLM movement, the Confederacy or other hot-topic matters.

The code gives the principal the authority to prohibit and even confiscate clothing that is deemed disruptive to the educational process. Making judgments on what attire is and isn’t disruptive is a decision that’s left up to the principal.

Principals often have to step in to keep clothing choices from becoming a distraction inside the school building, said Lineburg.

“Kids have always pushed the envelope with the dress code in every single high school in America, and 99 percent of the time teachers and administrators talk kids and families through [the concerns] and there’s no problem,” said Lineburg.

Lewis said he knew that stepping in to replace ‘Merica Day with another theme event would draw criticism.

“I realize maybe that it’s not popular,” he said. But, “It would be far less popular if we had something happen in the school that harmed a child.” While it’s conceivable that fighting could have erupted over politically-charged clothing, Lineburg said Monday was peaceable at HCHS. “There were absolutely zero fights.”

Added Lewis, “We make that decision [to promote safety and education] every day. What makes the decision different in this case is people thinking we’re taking red, white and blue out of the school. We don’t have a problem with students wearing red, white and blue at any time.”

The change in theme days came before Sunday’s widespread protests in the NFL among players, coaches and team owners who locked arms, kneeled or sat for the National Anthem.

The extraordinary game-day protest came after President Donald Trump, speaking Friday at a rally in Alabama in front of thousands of supporters, called for the firing of players who do not stand for the National Anthem. Trump told his audience that NFL owners should get “that son of a bitch off the field right now” — a comment widely perceived as aimed at former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began taking a knee during the anthem last year to protest police shootings of African-Americans.

Lewis acknowledged that “politics often finds its way” into the high school building but stressed that political considerations had no bearing on his actions.

“I reiterate, this decision is completely about the safety of children.”

It isn’t the first time that HCHS has cancelled an event out of concern that trouble could erupt: Lewis said he cancelled a school dance several years ago for similar reasons.

Lewis added he was aware that some parents and others in the community are displeased by the cancellation of Red White & Blue Day; some have contacted the school directly to protest the decision: “I’m sitting here at my desk with a note where some parents have called and I’ll do my best to get back with them,” he said Monday.

“I understand there’s a certain amount of people on Facebook that are displeased. I hope they’ll understand it’s not about taking the American flag and patriotism out of Halifax County High School.”

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t are those panels and the bottom of the doors? Second, how long would it take to get the rust/whatever it is off of the brick? Third,what kind of message does it send to folks who may be considering moving to the area and they see a police car back up to the door like it is about to be loaded up? I think this sends a wrong message!!!! Fourth, how long would it take to paint the flag pole? I would like to hear some kind of response to these concerns!!!!


OOps first part didn't print. The first part was: I don't have any comment about 'Merica Day. However, I do have several concerns I see in the picture. First, what are those panels at the bottom of the doors? Unsightly! Second, how long would it take to clean the rust/whatever it is off of the front of the building? Third, is it really necessary to have a police car back up almost touching the front door? What kind of message does that send to someone considering moving to the area? Car should be a the curb unless there is an ongoing situation! Fourth, how much would it cost and how long would it take to paint the flag pole? Some may think these are picky but little things can go a long way for first impression! I would like to hear some kind of response from whoever it responsible for these?


So taking right up from Joe Blow. Mr Superintendent, you are in control of the budget now and we are still taking about a $30 mil. fixer upper or a $60 mil new building. Let's just say you can't have that because there is no money or jobs unless you can pay for it with fast food or hotel taxes or police radar fines. PLEASE pick a project, sand blast the brick, new carpet, new runners on the stairs, new lighting, AND please completely renovate the flag pole area - local students and residents fought and died keeping this nation free. Can you pick one or two projects and do them this year. The flag pole area and power wash the building would be a good place to start.


First off....If they power wash the building..the brick will crumble. So that's a big no. The panels are where there was once glass and the students keep kicking it out and replacing it every week is costly. The main problem with keeping the building looking nice inside is the students. They have NO pride in it anymore. They purposely destroy it every day. WHat good would it do to clean and replace things if the students are going to destroy or deface again ?


"WHat good would it do to clean and replace things if the students are going to destroy or deface again ?" If that was true then why would any taxpayers in this county want to spend $60 million on a new school for the same thing to happen? Leading by example, cleaning and repairing things that are broken and dirty won't teach the kids to take care of and appreciate the things they have. I mean isn't that how we all grew up? We tore stuff up and mom and dad just went out and bought us something more expensive. We'll just go and build a brand new one and the problem will magically disappear. Better yet, why not TEACH the kids how to do some of it, allow them to use some of the newly acquired skills and maybe that ownership and pride will show up.


I observed this building for its entire existence and during most of that time I never saw glass broken! Replace it now Mr. Supt. Can’t sandblast-get cherry picker and give it a shot by hand with elbow grease. Mr Supt I would not let this stY without an effort!! Paint the flag pole now!! Maybe the VFW or some civic group would donate the paint!! No excuse not to take care of this immediately!! Finally, a request to Sheriff Clark or Chief should get the car in the curb!!! Hope a News Record will do follow up story to show some of these taken care!! No excuse for these!!!


You're already teaching them and allowing them to earn college credits and certifications. What's wrong with teaching them and giving the chance for manlift or Genie lift certification? Some will graduate high school join the military or get a job in a plant. And do you know what those who perform maintenance will have to learn?


And stand up for the flag. We're all blessed to live in this country.


And that's no ordinary man in that picture. He is the worlds greatest athlete EVER standing and saluting the flag. And if I'm wrong you tell me who in the history of mankind ever achieved four world records not over the span of a career but he did it in 42 minutes. Makes any man proud to be an American.

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