Archive for Friday, November 8, 2013

High school game-day T-shirts cause stir

November 8, 2013


Some parents and school administrators say the cross-town rivalry between Lawrence and Free State high schools may have crossed the line last week when a number of Free State students showed up at the showdown football game wearing T-shirts referring to Lawrence High students as "peasants."

But so far, school and district officials have not indicated they intend to take disciplinary action over the shirts or impose any new policies regarding T-shirt propriety.

"I would not let my own child buy that shirt or wear one to school," Free State Principal Ed West said.

Gary Anderson, the parent of a Lawrence High student, said he was greatly offended when he saw the shirts at the game.

"I think it's just horrible that they were allowed to wear them," he said.

The incident may have caused more hurt feelings among parents and faculty than it did among students. Some Lawrence High students and parents acknowledged that their fans wore some offensive T-shirts as well.

But the reference to LHS students as "peasants" appears to have struck a chord among some in the community who say there is a growing perception that the schools are separated by a large divide in economic class.

"LHS students had T-shirts showing a lion eating a firebird," Anderson said. "But 'peasants' – you're insulting parents, you're insulting the students, alumni ... That T-shirt was over the line."

According to state demographic data, about 41 percent of Lawrence High students are considered economically disadvantaged, meaning they qualify for free or reduced-price meals. That compares to about 26 percent of Free State students.

The higher rate at Lawrence High is largely due to the fact that most of the city's subsidized housing for low-income families is located in the LHS attendance area. However, officials note that both high schools have large numbers of families in which the parents are university professors, graduate students or other kinds of professionals.

Some Free State High School students wore T-shirts at last week's football game against Lawrence High School referring to LHS students as 'peasants.' Some parents and school officials say the shirts crossed the boundaries of good taste and sportsmanship.

Some Free State High School students wore T-shirts at last week's football game against Lawrence High School referring to LHS students as 'peasants.' Some parents and school officials say the shirts crossed the boundaries of good taste and sportsmanship.

West said Free State had no role in producing or distributing the shirts. According to several people who spoke to the Journal-World, the shirts were produced by a Free State student who promoted them on social media and sold them out of the back of his car.

The green, long-sleeve shirts had the words "Free State Firebirds" on the front, beneath the image of a crown, which reportedly referred to the "royalty" theme that Free State students had adopted for the game. The back of the shirts read, "LHS Where All the Peasants Go."

"The shirts are an inappropriate response in the name of our rivalry," West said. "The experience provides the opportunity for learning what appropriate boundaries are in the name of good, clean fun."

Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll also expressed regret over the shirts.

"The tee shirts created and worn by a small number of students during last week's football game were in poor taste and do not represent the views of Lawrence Free State High School," Doll said in an email to the Journal-World. "Students from both high schools use poor judgment at times in advancing an intracity rivalry. Both schools strive to use these occasions as learning experiences for our students."


Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 6 months ago

If we are honest wouldn't we have to admit that the common perception if that Lawrence High is the poor school and Free State the rich school, if for no other reason, that Free State is a newer and obviously a much better constructed school.

Wayne James 4 years, 6 months ago

Leslie Where do you get your information on the construction of the two schools? LHS (the original n-s hallway and the two ells on the north and south & the gym) were originally constructed back in the mid 50's, but the building has undergone many transformations since that time, and has changed dramatically since being originally built. Free State was built, what twenty years ago? Both buildings are built primarily of masonry (I have never been in FSHS, but I'm confident that what I say is true. West Jr Hi is built of masonry construction, this I know as fact, because my Father worked as the Carpenter Foreman and had to oversee construction of that school from beginning to end. Altho I never attended West, I spent a lot of time there after school watching the place going together.

Michele Dillon 4 years, 6 months ago

I moved here 8 years ago and always hear how Lawrence High is the better school; from adults as well as students. They even get precedence on 1320AM with broadcasts of games. Now that Free State is giving a little of it back people are offended.

Gary Anderson 4 years, 6 months ago

PEASANT noun ˈpe-zənt. : a person who is not educated and has low social status.
That's a far cry from bragging about how good ones school is or playful mascot versus mascot teasing. So, yes, I was offended.

4 years, 6 months ago

Do you really assert that other people should not be allowed to wear clothing that offends you?

Gary Anderson 4 years, 6 months ago

Generally of course not..but when the message on that clothing could easily be interpreted to be violating the USD497 anti-bullying policies, I feel the students should have been asked to remove the shirts by administrators and teachers. I'm not even saying the students should have complied...simply that it would have been nice if the adults in charge of the event would have let the students know the shirts were tacky to say the least and potentially offensive.

4 years, 6 months ago

" I'm not even saying the students should have complied..."

Well, that's quite a jump from "I think it's just horrible that they were allowed to wear them," but at least it's a jump in the right direction.

That kids "were allowed to wear them" sounds uncomfortably totalitarian, but I realize that the press cannot always capture the implications of people's words, even if they capture those words accurately. It's a shortcoming of the medium and not really assignable to any particular reporter or paper. I should hope that in Lawrence, at least, we should defer to the First Amendment wherever possible and that people be allowed to wear what they wish.

I don't think the students should have complied with such an order, either. In fact, I think they were perfectly correct in avoiding any 'interviews' as well.

Yes, the shirts were in poor taste. But good grief, I weep for my generation that we aim for the fainting couch and hide behind policies rather than allowing our kids to be kids.

When the LJ world says, "The incident may have caused more hurt feelings among parents and faculty than it did among students," that's not exactly a complement. It's an assertion that our kids are more mature than we are.

4 years, 6 months ago

"Totalitarianism" might be a bit much, I'll agree, but the demand to limit the speech of others is surely authoritarianism. Whether it's "not really funny" is irrelevant. Whether other people have the right to make jokes is at issue.

Lora Gilliland Schneider 4 years, 6 months ago

That is not a completely accurate statement. I would rather listen to a game on FM, anyway. Much clearer and larger signal.

Lora Gilliland Schneider 4 years, 6 months ago

I know Hank. He has told me personally he would call any Lawrence High School game. (FSHS or LHS) Traditionally, though, he has called LHS. This is what he and the community are used to. Please don't make it sound as if he's refusing to call the FSHS games. That is the inaccurate part.

Deanne Rathbun Arensberg 4 years, 6 months ago

I find it interesting that no one talked to the student that made the shirts nor were any students wearing them interviewed. If they had, perhaps what would have been learned is that LHS has been taunting FS for years about 'buying your traditions', 'only rich kids go to FS', etc. So, a number of them decided to embrace the taunts by wearing some shirts. Some people are putting way too much into the meaning behind them.

Gary Anderson 4 years, 6 months ago

Every student we attempted to interview the night of the game walked quickly away...we were lucky to get the one pic. If there is an alternative definition to the word peasant that you don't think is offensive I'd like to hear it. And the both sides do it is a questionable position to take. If you ever see an offensive shirt worn by a LHS student in the future, please notify an administrator...hopefully he/she will take appropriate action.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 6 months ago

Gary, could you explain how you attempted to interview these students? The byline for story I read said Peter Hancock.

Lora Gilliland Schneider 4 years, 6 months ago

All I can say to this comment is "Wow." Let the kids' be kids. It's a rivalry! I've seen horribly offensive signs/t-shirts and behavior over the years. Does that make it right? No. Does it mean we should all hug and sing Kum Bi Ya? No. It just means we should teach our children to be more sensitive and think before they act. Gary... I think you need to develop a bit thicker skin. These shirts must have touched a nerve or something for you to take it so personally. If that happened...I'm very sorry. But they are teenagers in t-shirts...nothing more, nothing less.

Michelle Fales 4 years, 6 months ago

Gary, just want to fill you in on a situation several years ago. FSHS had an exchange student playing on their basketball team and he was good. At the LHS/FSHS, the LHS students hung up posters that said "XXX, go back home where you belong". I as a parent found that unwelcoming and offensive. Didn't matter which side of 15th street I was on. I sent an email to both principals about the situation. The reply I got back was "both schools do offensive things and kids will be kids." Still not satisfield with that response. But LJ World who did cover that game did not say one thing in the paper about that situation. That being said, we as parents, are the individuals ultimately responsible for teaching our children right vs. wrong. While kids will be kids, do you think this perception of us vs them; rich vs. poor was all dreamed up by the students or is this a perception that comes down from the adults? Just something to ponder....

Bob Smith 4 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps an "h" was omitted and the shirt was talking about pheasants.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 6 months ago

Looks like J-W simply trying to make something out of nothing to create a story. rival schools have always and will always taunt their rivals,sounds like some adults need to grow up.

Lora Gilliland Schneider 4 years, 6 months ago

This is a non-story. I'm a parent of a FSHS student (and he went to CJHS) and there are things that have offended me off and on in this community for years. I've witnessed this type of behavior on both sides of 15th street. Why the big fuss now? As a parent if you don't like it- teach your children to not behave this way. Teaching them to cry "FOUL" every time something offends them only teaches them to become a victim and that the world had better wear kid gloves while dealing with them. (Which will NOT happen in the real world.) Aren't there bigger issues that could use the community's time and attention?

Mandi McNeer 4 years, 6 months ago

Free State opened in the fall of 1997! That was not 20 years ago.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

Just shows how little some know about old town Lawrence,Ks.

BTW is there something wrong with being a hard working, educated, and socially conscious peasant?

"'only rich kids go to FS" --- is this true? Hardly.

Angel Plas Gillaspie 4 years, 6 months ago

How is this any worse than "Muck Fizzou?" We used to call students who attended a cross-town rival day school "daisies." People are letting political correctness ruin everything. I don't find a t-shirt calling students "peasants" offensive at all. This is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Quit whining and man up, people!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.