Clintonville cancels football, homecoming events in response to dance-off video

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CLINTONVILLE, Wis. (WBAY) - UPDATE 10/7:

Clintonville Public School District's superintendent says staff and students are moving forward after video of non-Native students doing a mock tribal dance was met with outrage on social media.

Fallout from the video led the district to cancel Homecoming events on Friday and postpone Saturday's Homecoming dance.

Superintendent David Dyb released a statement to Action 2 News saying the district is "reviewing and improving" its approach to diversity and cultural education.

FULL STATEMENT:

“With our students back in school for another week of classes, the district is focusing on moving forward following last week’s unfortunate event and the subsequent fallout. Once again, we apologize for what took place, as we focus now on a restorative understanding of the harm that’s been caused.

This is certainly a very emotional issue and I want everyone to understand that the administration, staff and students in our school district are taking this very seriously.

We are currently in the process of reviewing and improving an on-going approach to diversity and cultural education within our schools. We will continue to communicate with the neighboring Native American tribes, the Great Lakes Intertribal Council and the Department of Public Instruction to seek their feedback, knowledge and resources on this important matter. Our goal is to further develop a meaningful, thoughtful and impactful plan to better understand, embrace and celebrate diversity in our school and our community.

We know it is very important to provide resources to help our students and staff with the healing and restorative process. We will continue to update the community as these planning efforts come together.” - David Dyb, Superintendent

The video, shot by a student during a Homecoming week dance-off, went viral on Friday. Numerous Action 2 News viewers shared the video with us and asked for answers. CLICK HERE for our initial report on the controversy.

Some Native American tribes called the dance "disrespectful" and "racially insensitive."

Oneida Nation Vice-Chairman Brandon Yellowbird Stevens released a statement on the video saying the tribe is "insulted and disappointed that the Clintonville School District, staff and students and the community have depicted Native Americans in this disrespectful display of a pep rally."

"To have these symbols and depictions of this cultural history used in inappropriate ways and without an understanding of the cultural significance and history behind them is a practice that must stop," says Stevens.

The Ho-Chunk Nation condemned the video for "racially insensitive display by students at Clintonville's homecoming rally."

Action 2 News is following up on this story and will have reports Monday.
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INITIAL REPORT:

All Friday Homecoming events have been canceled in the Clintonville Public School District in response to a dance-off video that has been criticized as offensive to Native Americans.

The Homecoming football game and Saturday's homecoming dance are among the canceled events.

Superintendent David C. Dyb cites "student safety concerns" for canceling the school dance. He says that will be rescheduled.

Dyb made the announcement in response to furor over the video that shows students at the "Homecoming dance-off" appearing to take part in a mock tribal dance set to Native drumming.

Dyb released this statement to Action 2 News:

"The Clintonville Public School District is aware of and apologizes for a very unfortunate event that occurred on October 3rd, at Clintonville High School. During a lunchtime homecoming dance off, Non-American Indian students wrongfully created a disrespectful mockery of American Indian culture by imitating and misrepresenting an American Indian dance. The specific dance was not school approved nor sanctioned by the school or any District employee. Immediate initial action steps have been taken, including the cancellation of all Friday homecoming events. Clintonville Public School District does not support, nor do we condone any behavior that would affect or offend any culture, race, color, religion, sex, nationality or origin. Clintonville Public School District would like to thank local tribes and tribal members who have already reached out to the district and offered cultural education and support. We will seek additional input and put together a long term plan to repair the harm and use this incident to reflect upon, learn, embrace, and to better understand and celebrate the diversity of all, including the Tribal Nations of Wisconsin. Please know, we strive to create an environment of diversity and inclusion. This will continue to be a top priority within the District."

Oneida Nation Vice-Chairman Brandon Yellowbird Stevens released a statement on the video saying the tribe is "insulted and disappointed that the Clintonville School District, staff and students and the community have depicted Native Americans in this disrespectful display of a pep rally."

Clintonville High School Principal Kelly Zeinert addressed the school Friday and explained the decision to cancel events. Video of her speech was shared with Action 2 News. "I'm here to tell you that if we were to hold these events, it would become a circus because of protesters, who as I said before, feel that the students here at Clintonville High School are racist," Zeinert says. She says they would also turn on her because they believed she allowed the dance to happen.

Action 2 News spoke with the student who shot the video, which was later shared on social media by his mother. He did not want to go on camera or be identified. He did give us this statement: “I recorded the video, but I don’t think the gentlemen should be punished for it. It’s Homecoming week and they wanted to entertain people. But I do understand where people are coming from. I just feel like they shouldn’t get anymore hate from this incident.”

As a precaution, district officials put the elementary, middle and high schools on student hold, where no students were allowed outside the building during the school day.

Students were also asked by staff at an assembly to not share the video anymore.

"We want to make sure our students are using social media appropriately in a context, obviously this is something that's not reflective of us as a school district, nor do we want to be reflective of anything that represents any kind of diversity or culture in an inappropriate way," said Dyb.

The Ho-Chunk Nation condemned the video for "racially insensitive display by students at Clintonville's homecoming rally."

The statement continues, "We are offering their leadership a conversation about the detrimental impacts of racism in our communities."

Superintendent Dyb says they will work with tribal communities and other community partners to address diversity.

"Having those that were involved understand the incident, to directly, understand the harm that was caused and what they can do to repair it. So, in a restorative sense, that's the approach that we will be taking," said Dyb.

Menominee Indian School District Superintendent Wendell Waukau also addressed the video, saying the district is "offended and disappointed by these disturbing events." Waukau says he has spoken with administration in the Clintonville School District and asked for an explanation and action.

"To have these symbols and depictions of this cultural history used in inappropriate ways and without an understanding of the cultural significance and history behind them is a practice that must stop," says Brandon Yellowbird Stevens of Oneida Nation.

Part of Stevens' statement on the Clintonville video addresses a Native American mascot resolution being passed by school districts in the state. The resolution supports retiring Native American mascots deemed offensive and disrespectful.

Clintonville's longtime team name is the Truckers. It does not have a Native American mascot.

"We encourage the Clintonville School District to join the other Wisconsin Tribes and schools to pass a resolution to ban racist mascots in our state. We extend an invitation to come to your school and share an educational experience with your staff and students," says Stevens.