UPDATE: Beaumont Independent School District released this statement regarding Big Bird's attack on MItt Romney:
Beaumont ISD administrators met today with Central High School campus administrators and the band directors. The video from Saturday's high school band halftime show has been thoroughly reviewed to examine the appropriateness of the performance. While BISD leaders are confident the intentions of the band and band director were to raise awareness of voting and not support any candidate, a message has been conveyed about the importance of avoiding the appearance of physical attack and political satire that can be construed as bias. Central High School leaders regret any act that appeared to some as a negative message and/or a political endorsement. Campus administrators and band leaders have been instructed to thoroughly examine how students plan to express their creativity as it relates to political rhetoric.
Central Medical Magnet High School Band and Fine Arts Program will continue its traditions of great and award-winning entertainment as the district remains focused on student achievement.
There's more outrage over on-field antics coming from Southeast Texas. This time its not Christian scripture on football banners but a halftime show in which a student dressed like Big Bird pretended to knockout another student dressed like Mitt Romney. Both are inappropriate performed during an official public school function. But, Republicans' reaction show the political Right is OK with students expressing their 1st Amendment rights on the field and in uniform when it fits their agenda. Republican officials lined up to endorse the proposition of Christian scripture on official public school football banners while promising that they would do the same for students of any belief. But, in the first major opportunity to stand up for students with differing ideals the Republican Party of Jefferson County called this latest act of student led speech a, “gross display of institutional arrogance on the part of a taxing entity”. No one seems to be making a caveat for whether it was the students' idea or if they supplied their own costumes or arranged the choreography. This was the distinction made by the Attorney General when he wrote his letter in support of the Kountze cheerleaders:
When the school district does not join in the students' religious message or seek to control or direct that message, the cheerleaders' decision to display their banners cannot constitute promotion or imposition of religion by the school district. Rather, the banners are the religious speech of individual students, which enjoys protection under the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.
In the case of the half time show the Beaumont Independent School District immediately vowed to “conduct a review of the appropriateness of Central High School band's half time performance.” School-board members said the skit was fine until the finale which it called “political satire”. However, just up the road cheerleaders in Kountze received a much different response from local establishment when they decided to bring religion onto the field. The Kountze ISD initially responded the correcrt way by looking into the matter, receiving council and banning the activity but right-wing activists and politicians decided they had a great opportunity to exploit these young students and encourage them to continue their divisive and discriminatory practices. Rallies ensued on their behalf, lawyers sued on their behalf and even the Governor and Attorney General lined up to back the Kountze cheerleader's freedom of speech.
This incident illustrates that Republican leaders in Texas are really only concerned with turning our public schools into a religious battleground with no real conviction for across the board freedom of speech. Our local and state leaders should take a cue from BISD and act appropriately to make sure no student is exposed to partisan messages with public funding – be it religious or political.
Original video below the jump: