MCCALLA, Ala. (WIAT) – An offensive sign that the McAdory High School football team ran through at Friday night’s game has gone viral. McAdory faced the Pinson High School Indians and the sign read, “Hey Indians. Get ready to leave in a Trail of Tears.”
The Trail of Tears refers to the forced relocation of Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Many individuals and Native American groups have contacted the school and Jefferson County Board of Education to complain.
“I felt disrespected,”says Bryan Sappier, the chairman for the Society of American Indian Government Employees. “I felt hurt that we allowed our students, our youth, to participate in this.”
Sappier lives in Alabama, but says he learned about the sign from a relative in Tennessee who saw a tweet about it over the weekend.
“I don’t really think that they meant harm,” Sappier allows, “but I do think that they didn’t stop to think of the words and how it impacts the general public.”
McAdory Principal Tod Humphries offered a “sincere and heartfelt apology” Monday morning. Humphries explains that the cheerleading sponsor who typically approves the sign which used by cheerleaders during pregame left on maternity leave in the past week. The sign was not approved by administration before it went up at the game.
“It was an oversight on our part that nobody vetted the signs,” Humphries says. “So the first we really saw of it was when it just popped up there.”
The Trail of Tears is part of the 10th grade curriculum, however, Humphries says this incident indicates that the school has not done a good job of teaching the students about the significance of the event. “If I’m not mistaken, the 10th grade just covered part of it, or they just started into it, which, I think is how this got into it.”
Humphries says he takes full responsibility for the sign, but he says it is not reflective of attitude of the school or community.
“This community is very tight-knit. It’s very diverse. It’s very family-oriented. They all love each other, regardless of ethnic background, and that’s just not who we are.”
On Tuesday, all of the social studies classes at McAdory will be working on units about the Trail of Tears.
To read the full statements from the Superintendent and Principal Humphries, see below.
Official Message from the Superintendent and the Jefferson County Board of Education:
We are disappointed that an offensive sign was displayed at McAdory High School on November15during a football game. It was insensitive to our Native Americans and we apologize to them.
The principal has published a letter of apology for the McAdory High School. It is posted on the school website.
A copy of that letter is below:
On 11/15/2013 at a football game at McAdory High School, a sign was displayed that made reference to the “Trail of Tears” in which Native Americans were subjected to horrific atrocities. This was not condoned by the school administration, the Jefferson County Board of Education or the community. The person who would normally be responsible for approving such signs is out on maternity leave, and I take full responsibility that arrangements were not made to have the signs pre-approved before the ballgame. Please accept our sincere apologies to the Native American people and to anyone who was offended by the reference to an event that is a stain on our Nation’s past forever.
The cheerleading squad will be disciplined. The sponsor of the Cheerleaders was on maternity leave and the sign was not approved in advance by the school administration.
The principal is asking all social studies teachers to teach each grade a lesson about the real Trail of Tears. We can use this unfortunate event as an important teachable moment. We apologize to all Native Americans and to any person who was offended. Our curriculum department will ensure that all students in the future will have a lesson on the Trail of Tears.
Dr. Stephen Nowlin