Weymouth school officials put the kibosh on plans for a sports “whiteout” fund-raiser, implying it was racially insensitive, and then apologized for the way they handled the issue.
In “whiteouts,” fans wear coordinated white T-shirts as a way to show team spirit. Weymouth school officials said they received about 15 complaints about the planned “whiteout” event, which was intended as a fund-raiser for the Weymouth High School girls’ soccer team.
Officials had approved a T-shirt fund-raising campaign for the soccer team — with white T-shirts emblazoned with “Weymouth Wildcats” on the fronts.
But school officials withdrew the approval when the fund-raiser was marketed as a whiteout event with T-shirts that read “Wildcat White Out.”
Superintendent Jennifer Curtis-Whipple sent out a letter online that said the apparel was “insensitive,” and while the booster group had no “malicious intent,” the “seemingly innocent” words caused “hurt” and “pain” to some members of the Weymouth community.
The issue stirred considerable debate online and in the community, with some claiming political correctness had gone too far.
Weymouth High School alum Jerry Thornton lamented in his Barstool Sports column that the school system had bowed to pressure “to correct an offense that nobody found offensive” and took the “path of much less resistance by assuming everyone is offended by everything.”
In a second letter sent out Sept. 13, school officials said the district “will use this situation as a teachable moment for its employees and students so that no faculty, staff, student or family feels alienated or disenfranchised.”
The letter also said that school officials wanted to clarify that “the cancellation of this fund-raiser was not intended as a punishment to the students, who to their credit have conducted themselves with maturity and understanding throughout the process.”
The letter added that “the Weymouth Public Schools and Superintendent Curtis-Whipple wish to sincerely apologize to the community and to the dedicated student-athletes for the way this issue was communicated.
“Moving forward, the school district promises to more clearly communicate its reasoning and intentions with the community overall and will work toward finding ways to improve communication and collaboration with fund-raising and booster groups,” the letter read.
The letter came from the superintendent, School Committee chairwoman Lisa Belmarsh, Weymouth High principal Alan Strauss, and interim athletic director Mia Muzio, and said it was intended to address the “significant public attention and controversy” generated by the issue.
The letter also acknowledged that “whiteouts” were used at college, high school, and occasionally in professional sports to show spirit and motivate fans. But the events also raise concerns — as witnessed by complaints from 15 parents who objected to the “messaging” around the Weymouth fund-raiser, the letter said.
“It was clear to the administration that further discussion was needed prior to hosting this event,” the letter said.
The letter said that the district is working with the sports programs and booster clubs to find additional fund-raising efforts.
According to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, about 78 percent of the 1,863 students at Weymouth High School identify as white.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .