AHS pep rally leads to policy changes, diversity discussions

AHS pep rally leads to policy changes, diversity discussions
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA
Source: KFDA

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Events at a recent Amarillo High School pep rally have the Amarillo ISD School Board looking into new student activity regulations and additional staff training.

You may remember last month Amarillo High held a fiesta-themed pep rally before playing Caprock in football.

The pep rally was seen by some as innocent, others as racist, and still others as a misunderstanding, since Caprock is a predominantly Hispanic High School.

While Amarillo High has apologized, the school board is using what happened as a way to look at deeper diversity issues within the school district.

Superintendent Dr. Dana West announced at Monday's school board meeting that students will have to submit pep rally or other activity ideas to their group sponsors for initial approval, and then to the principal for final written approval.

"The purpose of pep rallies include promoting school spirit, promoting sportsmanship, celebrating the achievements of students, teams and organizations, and encouraging success," said West. "Pep rallies are not a forum to denigrate other schools, teams, individuals, or promote violence, discrimination or harassment."

West said she and the board will look into diversity training for themselves and possibly all AISD staff and teachers.

"[I want to ask someone from] the Texas Association of School Boards to just come have a conversation with us as a team of 8. What does diversity mean? What does diversity mean in our community? I think that what has happened requires us to, as a team, have another conversation."

Some Amarillo residents think looking into a deeper meaning of this pep rally is taking things too far.

"The words that are used in that, which are 'denigrate' and 'harassment' - that was not any sort of intent in that pep rally," said Alice Homen, former Amarillo High Cheer President. "That makes me sad because I don't want Amarillo High to have that sort of reputation. That's just not who we are."

Others feel a lack of understanding other cultures is a bigger issue the district needs to tackle at all schools.

"I think it's an unfortunate event, but it kind of highlighted some underlying issues in our community," said Aaron Phillips, AISD teacher and executive board member for the Amarillo Education Association. "I think it's going to take more than diversity training. I think there's going to have to be a good look at who are becoming teachers in our community and how we can get better representation from the community into the classrooms."

The school board will be looking into how to better educate staff, teachers and students on the various relationships between the district's schools.

Copyright 2016 KFDA. All rights reserved.