Posted on Fri, Nov. 04, 2005

School will not allow offensive signs at games



At tonight's football game against Azle High School, spirit signs made by Birdville High School students will encourage their team, not put down the opposition.

Because of a recent incident in which students from another school were offended by signs made by Birdville students, the Birdville school district changed its policy, saying only signs that encourage a team can be displayed. District officials and Birdville students also apologized for the signs.

At the Oct. 20 football game against Fort Worth Carter-Riverside High School, students from the mostly Hispanic school were offended by signs that read, "Eagles aren't legal," "Go back to the river" and "I live in a van by the river," according to a letter written to the Star-Telegram by Carter-Riverside cheerleader Maria Ortega.

"I know a lot of people didn't get it," Ortega said.

But Ortega said the message seemed clear to Carter-Riverside students, many of whom are members of immigrant families.

"The 'Eagles aren't legal' says it -- that we're all illegal aliens," Ortega, 17, who said she is Mexican-American and not an immigrant.

Birdville school district spokesman Mark Thomas said the signs at the Carter-Riverside game were not intended to offend the opposing team.

"Eagles rhymes with legal," Thomas said. "There was no malicious intent in the hearts when they made those posters."

When students realized they had offended members of the other school they took the signs down, school district officials said. Since then, the Birdville High School spirit club asked its principal to form a committee to screen signs before they are displayed at games. Students also wrote a letter of apology to the principal of Carter-Riverside.

"I think that says a lot for those kids," Thomas said. "They went the extra step and said 'We're sorry we offended you.' " Carter-Riverside principal Maria Sanchez said she received the apology and is convinced that it "is really an isolated incident."

The incident spurred a discussion during a senior social studies class at Carter-Riverside, where teacher Marcie Warner said the students were "upset."

"We were just studying civil liberties and civil rights, and it was like taking a step backwards," Warner said. "I was proud of my students for wanting to do something about it."