Fan decries lost of ‘pep’ at assembly

Kevin Spradlin Richmond County Daily Journal

October 21, 2013

The pep rally on Friday at Richmind Senior High School turned out to be less pep than at least one family member expected.

Jennifer Everett, who graduated RSHS in 1991, was floored with what apparently was not allowed during the event so much so that she refused to call it a pep rally and instead labeled it a school assembly. She also created a 28-second video clip and posted it to Youtube. With the title “Raiders. No pep. No rally. My high school has lost all school spirit.”

It’s been viewed more than 3,800 times in less than 72 hours. Everett narrated the video, which shows the Raider band playing music and the cheerleaders doing what they do — and everyone else sitting. Barely moving.

“The new rule is you cannot get up and move,” Everett said in the video. “The band is playing. The cheerleaders are cheering but you can not get up and move. Thus, everybody is sitting still. This is the worst homecoming I have ever attended. This is supposed to be a pep rally.”

The brief clip ends by showing a distant shot of the school’s administrative team, including first-year Principal Keith McKenzie.

“There are the people responsible,” Everett concluded in the video.

Everett said she made the video because if she had repeated her observations without video proof, “nobody (would) believe me.”

Everett had returned home last week to Richmond County, as is the custom during Homecoming weekend, from her home in the Charlotte area where she works in the fashion industry. Everett came to reunite with family members and friends but also to support her niece, Breanna Everett, who was a part of this year’s Homecoming Court.

Everett said at one point it seemed that two of the school’s football players wanted to get up and start a cheer. She said two players looked for support, but “nobody would move. Everybody was scared.”

“I just feel like the school kind of let us down,” Everett said. “I want to know what happened.”

That’s where it gets tricky. Mallory Brown, director of public relations for Richmond County Schools, said the students were not, contrary to popular belief as expressed on social media, told they couldn’t move. Calls to McKenzie and William Kelley, assistant principal in charge of discipline, were not returned.

Brown said school staff “saw a couple incidents of vandalism during Spirit Week which, of course, is to be expected.”

Then came rumors that students wanted to cap their Spirit Week celebration with some sort of stunt — details either unknown or undisclosed by Brown. Either way, she said McKenzie made efforts to stop any such shenanigans and “made a schoolwide announcement about maintaining student safety,” reiterating that the “pep rally (was) intended to be a celebration of homecoming.”

Brown did not reply to a request for specific information about what, if any, safety issues there were during Spirit Week. Regarding student behavior, she referred to the school board’s existing policy on behavior that dictate the need for a “safe, orderly and inviting environment” and another one on disruptive behavior, which prohibits students from “disrupting teaching, the orderly conduct of school activities or any other lawful function of the school or school system.”

Neither policy specifically addresses proper decorum inside the gymnasium during a pep rally which, Everett argues, should not be considered the same as a classroom.

In the late 1980s through her senior year of 1991, Everett said, homecoming was “one of the best parts of the year. The game, the pep rally, the homecoming parade.”

And, Everett mentioned, the “Raider chant. To go there (Friday) and not have anything of that. It was just weird.”

By the changes in execution from then to Friday, she said, “I was kind of taken aback. It wasn’t a pep rally. It was bad. I just thought it was a really poor move … to not allow kids to celebrate. I don’t think anyone’s seen a pep rally like that.”

“I think a couple students actually did try and celebrate,” Everett said. “One girl danced. A group of girls had silly string. They got kicked out for spraying silly string.”

Brown said that no students were suspended from actions during the pep rally but that “some were given Saturday school for causing a disruption.”

“It was one of the milestones that you look forward to,” Everett said. “As an adult, you watch family members grow up. It was a milestone moment for us.”