By: Melanie Williamson
In an open letter to parents posted on the Vermilion Local Schools website, Superintendent Phil Pempin wrote, “This week I was saddened to hear that conversation on social media has resulted in our band and majorette advisors being harassed and receiving phone calls alluding to threats of bodily harm. It appears this is related to an announced change in the routines and organization of the band for next year.”
The VHS Band Director Kimberly Judd explained that they have discussed making changes to the majorette program. The changes would include more twirling and tossing during the half time show. She went on to explain that making this change would provide the girls with the skills needed to enter competitions or pursue twirling at the collegiate level.
The changes in skills would also require a change in uniform for the half time show. She reiterated that if these changes were made, the majorettes would still wear the traditional uniforms for the pregame show and community events and parades. However, they would have to change into uniforms more suited for competition for the half time show. Judd stated that, for example, if they learned how to twirl fire batons, they could not do that while wearing a uniform with a tie.
Judd also stated that no decisions have been made yet. She went on to share that the idea was presented during a majorette clinic as something they may move towards. Judd stated the idea was presented by the majorette advisor, but that she was present and in agreement with what was said. Although it was presented as a possibility and something they were discussing, some took it to mean the change was already happening.
Pempin stated that they are not trying to throw out tradition as some have suggested. Rather, they are trying to respect tradition while still providing students with new opportunities. In the letter, he wrote, “The objective for our teachers and advisors is to prepare all of our students for competition in adjudicated events sponsored by the Ohio Music Educators Association and other professional organizations. Achieving high marks in competition can often lead to college-level scholarship opportunities for our students.”
In regards to the threats made, Pempin went on to say in his letter, “While we respect the right of parents and students to express opinions, and even criticize our staff, it is our expectation that your comments will not cross the line of civility, dignity and respect for others.”
When interviewed, Pempin reiterated this position stating they are open to criticism, and they are more than willing to listen. However, it needs to be done respectfully and without crossing the line.
The letter to parents went on to say, “All reported threats, including intimidation and harassment through telephone or social media, will be thoroughly investigated.” Again, Pempin further explained this point stating that if it is found that threats crossed the line, it will become a police matter and beyond the scope of the district.
“Participation in extra-curricular activities is a privilege, not a right. The Board of Education has established policy specifically prohibiting harassment by students or parents. Any form of unacceptable behavior is subject to discipline, including removal from an event, suspension of participation in all activities for a season or a school year, suspension from school, and/or referral to local authorities. Parents and community members may also be banned from our facilities for actions that are deemed to be harmful or threatening to our students or staff members.”
Pempin stated that he cannot discuss specifically what was said to raise concern, and he did not want to suggest threats were coming from the majority of parents or students involved. It was, however, a serious situation that needed to be addressed quickly. In writing the letter, he asserted he tried to make it as pointed as possible; they cannot allow people to make threats of any kind against district staff.