A California high school is warning its students that chanting “USA” at sporting events could send an “unintended message” to students.
CBS Sacramento reports that officials at Vista Del Lago High School in Folsom are telling students that the chants could be deemed offensive to other students.
Although school officials say such an incident never happened at Vista Del Lago High School, students at other schools had reportedly used the chant in a derogatory way towards students of different ethnicities.
Principal Lori Emmington sent an email to families saying that the school had an open discussion with dozens of students to determine when it is appropriate to chant “USA” to promote “sportsmanship, empathy, and kindness.”
At the conclusion of the discussion, staff determined that it would “make sense” to chant “USA” at games following patriotic events such as the National Anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance, but that it “might be confusing” to chant it during competitive events for fear that it might be misconstrued.
“I wasn’t angry, but I was definitely like, ‘Why can’t we chant USA?’” senior Ryan Bernal said of the school’s warnings. “To say USA, you know, we’re all the same. We’re all American. It doesn’t matter what your skin tone is or where you’re from.”
Emmington sent the email to families after the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), the organization in charge of high school athletics, addressed the incidents that allegedly took place at other schools with local school districts.
“There’s a time and a place to yell that and cheer that,” Mike Garrison, commissioner of CIF’s Sac-Joaquin Section, said of the chants.
District officials say they did not officially ban people from chanting “USA” and stressed that these discussions were about teaching students “empathy.”
Other school districts have dealt with complaints about students displaying symbols of patriotism at school sporting events because critics say they could be interpreted as symbols of “white supremacy” and “nationalism.”
In September 2016, parents at a Michigan high school complained after students wore red, white, and blue and displayed a Betsy Ross flag at a school football game. The superintendent of the school district said the students did not mean any harm and were dressing up for a theme night.