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09.19.18 Letter to the Community - KDKA NewRadio Allegation Follow-up

Dear Mars Area Community,

We at Mars Area School District were very disappointed and troubled by the unsubstantiated allegations and inaccurate information about the behavior of our students at the Mars Area vs. Penn Hills home football game on Sept. 14 that were claimed on the KDKA NewsRadio program, “The Inside Story with Marty Griffin,” broadcast on Sept. 17. 

This school year, our District is taking steps to improve our school climate and to lead our students, our staff, and the whole of the school community in a more positive direction. Our District-wide theme this school year is “Kindness” and our school administrators, teachers and staff members have been hard at work posting and sharing positive, encouraging messages throughout our school buildings. Our District is also implementing the “Rachel’s Challenge” positive school culture program across all grade levels through various assemblies and other activities.

With all of the efforts that the District is making to improve our school climate, we    hope that you can understand our disappointment in the inaccurate information and unsubstantiated claims of inappropriate behavior by our students, as purported by the KDKA NewsRadio program.

The students in our Student Section were dressed in red, white and blue as a celebration of America and as an enthusiastic expression of school spirit and camaraderie. At Mars Area High School, a theme for the Student Section at each home football game is selected by the student body and approved by the school’s administration. The Student Section theme for the Sept. 14 home football game was “USA,” as this game took place only three days after the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This is a perennial theme that the District considers a logical choice for a home football game scheduled just days after this anniversary.

No complaints about any inappropriate activities by athletes and/or fans in attendance at the Sept. 14 home football game were reported to Mars Area School District’s administration, Penn Hills School District’s administration, or to WPIAL officials either before, during, or after the game. The only complaint regarding this matter was that shared on the radio program. Upon being made aware of this claim, District and school administrators took immediate action to investigate. The District takes all allegations of improper conduct seriously and will not tolerate any discriminatory behavior. No evidence was found to substantiate this claim.

These false allegations that were made on the KDKA NewsRadio program as well as the public social media posts that followed misrepresented our School District and the behavior of our students, distorting something that was truly meant to be positive, patriotic, and unifying into something ugly, mean-spirited, and divisive based on unverified hearsay.

Mars Area School District is committed to providing a safe and supportive environment to learn, grow, and even compete. We are confident that our Student Section aligned with this commitment on the evening in question and appropriately demonstrated their pride in their school and in their country, which should be embraced and encouraged.

Parents and community members are invited to attend our District’s “Rachel’s Challenge” Community Night Presentation from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, to learn more about the program and how it is being implemented in our schools. “Rachel’s Challenge” is only one of several upcoming programs and initiatives in support of the District’s efforts to encourage a safe and supportive learning environment, where everyone feels welcome and appreciated.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Dayle Ferguson
President, Mars Area Board of School Directors

Dr. Wesley Shipley
Superintendent, Mars Area School District