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WA school cancels 9/11 tribute; says US colors may be ‘racially insensitive’

The American flag (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Dennis Cantrell)
September 13, 2021

Students at a Washington high school planned to honor the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by wearing red, white and blue during the school’s football game, but staff canceled the patriotic theme claiming it could be considered “racially insensitive.”

According to the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, the principal of Eastlake High School in Sammamish, Washington, Chris Bede, said in an email that the colors that represent the United States of America could “unintentionally cause offense to some who see it differently.”

Student body leadership was disappointed and confused by the cancellation of the Patriot’s Day theme that sought to honor the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the Jihadist terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“At this point, I was fairly upset and confused as to why the theme was changed so I went around asking students in our leadership,” one student told the show, explaining that they had found out about the cancellation during morning announcements. “They had explained that red, white, and blue was going to be seen as racially insensitive and may affect people in a way that we will not understand and for that reason that we were to change our theme.”

According to one student’s mother who emailed the school, Bede said the colors could “cause offense.”

“Our leadership teachers made this decision and explained it to students,” Bede wrote in an email, the mother explained. “I know tomorrow is 9/11 and understand the sacrifice and values our flag represents, but I think they just did not want to unintentionally cause offense to some who see it differently.”

In emails seen by the Jason Rantz Show, Bede was apparently surprised that the theme was canceled.

“I understand your perspective and was not looped into this conversation until an hour ago,” Bede responded to a parent. “I do want to clarify that schools do not have a right to ban students from wearing anything as long as it is not lewd, vulgar, etc. And the theme of red, white, and blue definitely would not fit into that category.”

District communications director Shannon Parthemer told the KTTH show that they wouldn’t be able to explain during the football game why the students were wearing red, white, and blue. She did not say how the colors could be considered offensive.   

“Since it was not a home game, there was no opportunity to have an announcement about Patriot’s Day and to share why students were dressed in red, white, and blue,” Parthemer said in a statement.

Several students contacted the Jason Rantz show to express their frustration with Eastlake’s decision.

“I was instantly upset, and frustrated,” one student wrote in an email. “If Eastlake is all about including everyone’s beliefs and being together as a ‘family,’ then why are we being told we can’t represent the country we live in? I have seen other [Lake Washington School District] football teams that held a flag or did some sort of memorial recognition towards 9/11, but apparently we weren’t allowed to even wear USA colors.”