PERRY TOWNSHIP, Ohio - The Perry High School Panthers and their neighboring Massillon Tigers have been football rivals for generations. It is a rivalry that over the years alumni and parents say has, at times, become very heated.
Things really heated up after a Perry pep rally before the two rivals met once again on the football field last Friday.
During the pep rally, several Perry students dressed as Massillon cheerleaders. A photo taken of the students shows one of them holding a mechanical baby the superintendent says was grabbed from a health class.
"It's something a student did, kind of spur of the moment right before they came out on the gym floor and the student realized, actually we had a staff member who very quickly took the baby away from him," said Perry Superintendent Dr. John Richard.
The photo went viral over the internet prompting angry reaction from some who felt it was intended to humiliate a specific person.
Some listeners to Canton's Q92 FM Radio Station's morning show on Tuesday reacted with outrage. Others thought it was a harmless dig that was being blown out of proportion.
"There's probably cheerleaders upset that it's the world's worst thing," commented one Massillon student who added, "I would be pretty mad if that was me."
A Massillon teacher and mother of three kids in the high school was also angry saying, "I just think something like that in a photo is ignorant."
Another listener commented, "We were the same way when we were in high school. It's really a joke and should be taken as one."
Yet another said, "It's just a Massillon-McKinley rivalry, I don't think it's a big deal."
Over the internet people commenting on the radio station's Facebook page called the students actions "bullying," "classless," "tasteless," and "offensive."
"At this point our goal is to move on from this," said Dr. Richard on Tuesday.
"The student has actually written an apology to the cheerleaders in Massillon and that’s being delivered to the school district, so we hope we can keep a good friendly rivalry going without something that tarnishes it," Richard told Fox 8 News.
On the field, Massillon ultimately had the final word, defeating the Perry Panthers 42-21.