MASSILLON — Parents in Stark County are upset after a photo taken at a Friday pep rally at Perry High School went viral. Portions of the pep rally were aimed at rival Massillon ahead of their football battle this weekend.
The photo shows several Perry students dressed as Massillon High School cheerleaders. One young man is carrying a baby.
After the pep rally, photos were passed to the community on Facebook and Twitter.
“What happened to the alma mater? Isn’t that what they used to play at pep rallies?” said a Perry mom.
Parents say the photo has turned an already heated rivalry between two schools into a community controversy.
Even as it was happening, “My kids were really amazed as well as a lot of their friends, that that was allowed.”
“At their age even, they were able to realize, that’s not cool. That’s not funny.”
This parent didn’t want to be identified for fear her kids would suffer, but it’s the other students in the crowd she’s most worried about.
“If there was a student at the pep rally that was pregnant, that’s horrifying. As if she’s not dealing with enough,” she said.
“Kids will be kids. That’s our job as adults to tell them, hey you crossed the line.”
Perry Local Schools superintendent the doll was part of a take home health class assignment. Superintendent John Richard says a 17-year-old student has been punished for his actions.
“The student certainly is aware of the bad choice that he made. He’s writing an apology to the Massillon cheerleaders,” said Richard.
Perry also hopes to institute a new rule mandating that pep rallies must uplift school spirit, without focusing on opposing teams.
“We’re going to kind of have a general rule at our pep rallies that our focus is on Perry rather than on other schools. So it doesn’t lend itself to a bad perception, or a kid making a bad choice like this,” said Richard.
“It’s always fun to have a next door neighbor rival, but we want to do that in a good sportsmanship manner. Both school districts have worked very hard at that,” he said.
School leaders at Massillon had no comment.
Massillon Tigers beat the Perry Panthers 41-21 during Friday’s game.