PEPPER PIKE, Ohio (WJW) – As a new football season kicked off Friday night at Orange High School in Pepper Pike, a new “diversity pledge” was also announced for the very first time.
The pledge was announced before the game, again at halftime and will be read at every sporting event in the future.
Orange Schools Superintendent Dr. Lynn Campbell says there will be consequences for violating the pledge.
“We’re not going to harass or intimidate and if you do those things, you stand the chance at losing participation or, as a fan, you stand the chance of not being allowed to attend events,” said Campbell.
The pledge was approved by the school board last week and was created in response to an incident last May where, during a Lacrosse tournament at the high school, an opposing player had at anti-Semitic symbol on his leg.
It turned out to be part of a prank but was seen as hurtful.
“It really broke my heart because everyone should feel comfortable and welcome,” said Carmen Evans, OHS senior and cheer team member.
Parents were also upset.
“I was really distraught because it’s hard to see so much antisemitism,” said Kelly Fishman. “I think students sometimes don’t understand the impact their actions might have.”
So, the new pledge defines it for them. It’s a code-of-conduct for both athletes and anyone attending the events.
The pledge is also written in the updated “athlete-parent handbook” under the code of conduct section.
It reads, “Student-athletes and parents/guardians pledge to respect all players, fans, school employees, officials and spectators, and further pledge to refrain from making any derogatory comments or remarks or displaying disrespectful behavior related to race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, age, religion, ancestry or genetic information.”
At the game Friday, everyone seemed supportive of the pledge.
“Oh, I feel so good about that because it shows that they’re actually making a stand about something,” said Evans. “Especially being African American and my classmates with their religions, it just feels so good.”
“I was excited to see that the school was embracing the diversity,” said Fishman.
The pledge is being so well received the superintendent says other districts are looking at implementing similar pledges and so is their football conference.
“This could be something that takes off across the entire Chagrin Valley Conference, which spans from west side of Cleveland all the way to Ashtabula. That’s pretty exciting,” said Campbell.