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When student sections go too far, what should the next steps be?

Students should feel safe at school events, even if it is not at their home gym. If students of all backgrounds and cultures cannot feel safe traveling to a different school to compete or root for their team, we have lost the true meaning of sport and school spirit — as we clearly saw at this game. Last week’s court-side chants or parking lot chaos could have escalated to leave people severely injured or irreparable property damage. 

Games can not continue to be held this way, and administrations or supervisors from schools with vulgar student sections need to take action. The era of face paint in the stands and fun themes for games is in limbo. It may be frustrating to have to “cheer for only your team,” but it keeps these events safe for everyone. 

“I definitely think this should be a district wide thing. If Eaglecrest is just supporting our team, and let’s say Creek is dissing us, I think that could make a negative reaction with us,” Noah Vieyra, the Eaglecrest student body president, said. “If we’re just trying to be there for our team and then the student section of the opposing team is coming after us, it’s going to make us go after them. That’s exactly what happened on Friday.”

The Cherry Creek High School student section chanting. (Video obtained from Cherry Creek Sports Network)

It does not matter who started the back and forth. As seen during that Friday game and the subsequent parking lot, it will quickly escalate into a dangerous situation. Everyone should work their best to make sure this does not happen, even if it involves a bit of tongue biting. 

“We want to create a positive environment as best we can for our kids. I think we’re consistent in our message and make sure that we cheer on our guys and girls. When we try to engage in the other crowd, we focus on what we can do to be positive and be energetic. [We want to] get our team in the best possible position to be successful,” Vincent Orlando, an Eaglecrest Athletic Director, said. “We don’t allow kids to verbally attack officials, or opposing players. We want to cheer positive for our team and focus on our team. We make sure that we uphold the expectations that we have for Raptors.”

A banner reads, “Cherry Creek High School: Home of the Bruins.” (Jeremy Garza)

Both schools were in the wrong. Eaglecrest should have upheld our rules and not chanted against Cherry Creek. Yet, Cherry Creek’s chants were much more damaging and unacceptable. If no one else is, when is it appropriate for students to stand up for themselves? How far does the other school have to go?

“I think even just making sure that our admin. is making sure that what we’re saying and what we’re chanting is something to help our team and not bring down the other team. I think even new guidelines where admin is more strict about what we’re saying,” Josh Silva, the Cherry Creek student body president, said. “Also, Creek needs to make new chants and make sure that others have heard them. [Creek should make] a new environment where you go to games and you enjoy the chants and the environment. They’re not putting others in an environment where they feel unsafe.”

New chants and better training are a start. They will lead Cherry Creek to better sportsmanship and safer games for everyone. The root of this issue is not chants, though. The chants were just an unfortunate showcase of some students who appear to be uneducated on race. 

“I could count the amount of black people I saw on that side on one hand.” — Chelsea Asibbey, an Eaglecrest Student

Cherry Creek has a majority white student population. Eaglecrest is the exact opposite. The Nest is a near perfect microcosm of the racial breakdown of the United States. People of all different backgrounds and cultures walk in our halls. 

“I think at Creek there is a lot of ignorance as a lot of students don’t interact with many people outside of Greenwood village which means that they build false narratives about other communities,” Tyler Tolbert, a student at Cherry Creek High School, said. Staying within a homogenous community is a dangerous game. Ideas fester and morals, sometimes, go south. Eight students from Cherry Creek are currently fighting this uphill battle.

“I’m a part of SOAR, which stands for students organized against racism. We participated in a district led training on how to have conversations surrounding race in our community, and how to create a more equitable, equitable environment at our schools,” Thomas Fischer, a student at Cherry Creek High School, said. “I think there should be some more reprimand than a slap on the wrist. And there should be learning in order to understand and maybe hearing perspectives from other students.”

Fischer is also working on a program, “Below the Line,” with SOAR. Beginning a full rollout next school year, teachers will implement the other side of stories in their lessons — the stories of the people that usually do not get a voice. Fischer hopes that this program will teach Cherry Creek students new perspectives and a new understanding.

A student walking to class at Cherry Creek High School. (Jeremy Garza)

“I don’t see how that’s acceptable behavior from a student section. We’ve had little arguments with student sections in the past, but never to that extent. Calling our player a slur is not okay,” Hanna Barrios, an Eaglecrest student, said. It is difficult to change an already established culture, but it must be done. 

“It’s kind of like the culture that has been around, and it’s a negative culture that needs to be taken away. A new culture has to form where everyone is accepted,” Silva said. “I know specifically at our big school, minorities can feel like they don’t fit in at Creek because their peers don’t look like them. I’m really trying to make sure that everyone is heard and everyone has a voice in their community.”

Many members of Cherry Creek are trying to lift their peers up and turn a new leaf. Yes, some of their community member’s actions were despicable and need to be addressed, but the whole school should not be “canceled.”

“It wasn’t the whole student section obviously wasn’t making all the comments like it was just certain individuals. And so I think the certain individuals that were saying the columns to us I think that they should be held accountable,” Vieyra said. “I do think that both schools have stuff to definitely improve on. I think it’d be a lot easier for us to improve with another school. We can rely on each other for guidance and support.”

As Vieyra said, hopefully both schools will learn to grow from this experience. Hopefully, Eaglecrest has better learned how to face adversity. And hopefully, this part of these student’s culture and values around race will change in the coming years and an event like this will not happen again.