Outrage grows over Forest Hill band performance in Brookhaven

Published 12:14 am Saturday, October 6, 2018

Outrage over a halftime performance by the Forest Hill marching band on King Field in Brookhaven Friday night continues to grow.

The performance included fake ­guns in a dramatized scene with students portraying law enforcement officers. Students dressed in scrubs can be seen pointing the fake weapons at other students lying on the ground. There were reports that the scene was an interpretation of the movie “John Q.”

Many fans and those in the community who saw images of the performance online were upset at the make-believe gunplay, which comes just days after the shooting deaths of Brookhaven policemen Zach Moak and James White, both of whom died in the line of duty early Saturday morning.

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The Forest Hill band director is on administrative leave while the school district investigates, according to media reports.

The Brookhaven School District released a statement Saturday: “The Brookhaven School District fully supports our local law enforcement. The halftime show performed by the visiting band during last night’s game was an unfortunate issue that our district had no prior knowledge of and does not condone.”

Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox said Saturday he had spoken with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who informed him the Forest Hill band director has been suspended.

“I have been and will continue making various contacts, a few of which include Governor Phil Bryant, our local state legislators, Brookhaven School District, Mississippi Department of Education, Mississippi High School Activities Association, Mississippi Department of Public Safety, Jackson Public School District and Forest Hill High School, to ensure the matter is sufficiently addressed and fully investigated not only internally, but by a state level Select Committee or the appropriate state agencies,” Cox wrote on Facebook. “This is no longer simply a Jackson Public School District matter. There must be accountability and serious consequences for this demonstrated act of violence and blatant disregard for school policy. In addition, I am asking that all Forest Hill High School and Jackson Public School System staff, faculty, and administrators with prior knowledge and approval of this halftime routine be held accountable and terminated from employment, this routine be removed from the Forest Hill Band program, and that future Forest Hill Band routines be monitored and approved at the state level prior to each performance.”

Gov. Phil Bryant on Twitter Saturday morning wrote: “This is unacceptable in a civilized society. Someone should be held accountable.”

Sen. Sally Doty of Brookhaven wrote on Facebook: “I will be making a complaint to the Mississippi High School Activities Association as well as to Forest Hill and JPS administration. How could any administrator think that halftime show was appropriate?”

Brookhaven School District Superintendent Ray Carlock released a statement Saturday: “We appreciate the JPS Superintendent Dr. Errick Greene and the administration, band director and coaches at Forest Hill High School for reaching out to us today to offer apologies for the halftime show Friday night. In light of the recent tragic deaths of two Brookhaven police officers, it is important that our school districts stand united in support of law enforcement.”

The Mississippi Dept. of Education called the performance in poor taste and inappropriate.

“The MDE has received numerous complaints about the band performance by Forest Hill High School. We are closely monitoring the situation. The content of this band performance is not indicative of the high caliber of high school band performances that occur across the state nor was it reflective of the high quality of student guidance by our educators.

“This is a school district matter that is currently being addressed by the district’s leadership, and we are pleased to see that they are taking immediate personnel action.”

“We are baffled at why someone would think that it’s OK to allow children to be armed with AR-15s, and although they are fake weapons, to hold law enforcement at bay. We are very outraged. That was a very distasteful performance,” Walter Armstrong, Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs president, said on Fox & Friends Monday morning. “While we support our youth … you would think someone who was in charge of those students would have known better. It could not have happened at a worse time.”

Some of those upset about the performance expressed their contempt using racial slurs.

An employee of Copiah-Lincoln Community College reportedly used a racial slur online when criticizing the show. The college released a statement that reads: The opinions expressed in recent social media posts by an employee do not reflect the views of Copiah-Lincoln Community College. The administration is looking into this personnel matter …”