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Commentary: Battle at Red Wing High School must end

I have watched the battle unfold between the “Winger Tea Party” and the Red Wing school administration.

Initially, I was behind fellow senior student Bryce Reps and his intelligent, collected response to the high school’s treatment of the Sept. 11 anniversary (R-E. Sept. 18). I admired his persistence for an apology from the administration and was appalled when they refused.

However, the conflict did not stop there and things have quickly gotten out of hand.

Allow me to offer an inside and hopefully neutral perspective on what has happened during Red Wing’s homecoming week.

It’s tradition for seniors to have dress-up days separate from the rest of the school, and each day is decided by the seniors. This year, all but one dress-up day was approved: ‘Merica Monday. ‘Merica is a play on the word “America” and students decided to call it that due to the alliteration it would create.

However, the term has negative connotations. It’s associated with “redneck” stereotypes and could prove to be offensive.

After being denied “Fake-Injury Day” to a claim of ableism and having our disappointment over Sept. 11 shoved back in our faces, it seemed like the administration was only kicking us when we were down. At the same time, it’s easy to see where they’re coming from.

Reps commented on the “Wangster”/”Wigger” incident that happened in 2009, saying, “The sad thing is the administration is so concerned.” (R-E, Oct. 2)

He’s right. It is sad that it’s something we have to continuously refer back to, but it’s only sad because it happened. The students at Red Wing High School did something wrong in 2009. I’m proud that our school is hoping to stay clear of things like that in the future.

Now, ’Merica Monday still happened. We were allowed to change to “National Pride Day.”

Personally, I felt accomplished. We fought for something we wanted. We negotiated and we reached a successful agreement.

Then, 14 students decided to take matters into their own hands, wanting to make a larger statement.

Graffiti was found Monday morning on various windows and doors of the school, spelling out words of alleged “patriotism.” However, the way I see it, it was more of a message to the administration. Something like, “Mess with us, we’ll mess right back.”

After finally gaining some respect from those in positions higher than ours, that was not something I wanted. When I heard the news and witnessed the graffiti, I could feel our progress disintegrating. Now we appeared exactly how the administration probably saw us — rebellious, stubborn teenagers.

Vandalizing a school is against the law and violates the Red Wing High School Student Handbook. The possibility of criminal charges loomed over the senior class as we looked around, wondering who had decided to pull something much more serious than a simple prank. This incident seemed to draw the line, separating the classmates between those who supported the radical way of calling attention and those who were appalled at the idea.

Wednesday, it was revealed that the accused students received suspension for two days and from sports for two weeks.

It seemed reasonable to me. The few students accused of damaging the soccer field were arrested. Given that, those 14 suspended seniors seem to have caught a break.

Unfortunately, that’s not how they see it. Immediately following the publication of the punishment, plenty of other seniors raged. Hashtags like “FreeWingerTeaParty” were plastered all over Twitter, and rumors began flowing around of the next move.

Plans were made to boycott the school, kids joining those suspended by skipping classes. Kids suspended from sports worked on ways to join their team at important events to show their support. Those are the least of the ideas.

At lunch Wednesday, those suspended and their friends were cheered for, made into something like martyrs.

At this point, I’m begging for some release. Some of my classmates are taking things too far. It’s time to let it go. They lost my support when they stopped respecting the rest of us at school.

Coming into my senior year, I hoped that it would be fun. I wanted to create good memories to propel me through the transition to college. These aren’t the memories I wanted.

Around school, our leading janitor is known and respected. It seems some have forgotten how hard he and his team had to work to clean the windows, un-fork the lawn and repaint the doors that could not be washed clean.

Dr. Borgen (though admittedly, I’m still a bit disappointed in her) is only trying to do her job. Punishing students is not shocking. Something had to be done and, frankly, those kids should be thankful it wasn’t anything more.

It’s time to stop. This battle needs to end or things will only grow worse and more severe.

Ironically, I’m going to end this piece with something similar to a phrase that was amongst the graffiti. I, and many others, only want peace.

Kendall Dickinson

Red Wing