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Plenty of blame to go around in band mess

Despite calls from Brookhaven pastors and public officials, as well as supporters in Jackson, sanctions against the Forest Hill band for a halftime performance at King Field were upheld Tuesday.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association rejected an appeal from the Jackson school district to lift punishments against the Forest Hill High School band. The association said the band can’t march at remaining football games, although it can play in the stands while wearing full uniforms, The Associated Press reported.

The halftime show in question was insensitive, inappropriate and in poor taste at best. But the band members are not to blame. The man responsible for the show, the band director, was fired. Continuing to punish the students was not necessary.

“It was an inappropriate performance, that’s why,” MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton told The Associated Press when asked why the penalty should be upheld. He told reporters in a news conference earlier Tuesday that children should speak up “if they feel something isn’t right.”

While Hinton is correct that students should speak up if they feel something isn’t right, he assumes that Forest Hill students were aware of the police shootings in Brookhaven. But he has no way of knowing that.

The position of MHSAA appears to be in reaction to the outrage that followed the halftime show. People were understandably upset and many (including public officials) responded with anger. Some likely said (or wrote on Facebook) things they now regret. The harsh tone taken by those in positions of authority forced the hand of MHSAA to initially suspend the band.

Once some of those public officials toned down their rhetoric and called for the suspension against the band to be lifted, it left MHSAA in a difficult spot. It could either hold fast to a decision that should not have been made in the first place, or reverse course and admit the suspension was too harsh a punishment. It chose the former.

There is much blame to go around in this situation, and the band director should accept the vast majority of it. But there are others who share blame in this mess.