Election of Osceola homecoming court raises concerns

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

OSCEOLA -- What was a hot topic of discussion at Monday night's Osceola School Board meeting, became a hush subject on Tuesday night.

The board voted Monday, 4-3, to add one non-African-American girl from each grade to the Seminole Homecoming Court. Tuesday morning, their motion was carried out by Principal Zrano Bowles.

Four white girls were added, using votes from last week's election by the football players. The non-African-American girls with the most votes were chosen.The girls had their photo taken by the newspaper and were allowed to take the rest of the day off school to go shopping for a dress.

Around 4:30 p.m., Superintendent Mike Cox called The Osceola Times stating a special meeting would be held at 7 p.m. to rescind Monday's vote with regard to the homecoming court. After consulting with attorneys, Cox said he believed the vote was not legal.

At 7 p.m., board member Randy Carney, who is also Mississippi County judge, made the motion to rescind the motion he made the previous night. The motion was seconded and unanimously approved with no public discussion. The meeting was then immediately adjourned.

Monday night, board president Terry Cole explained when he attended OHS, two maids were chosen from each grade level, one white and one African-American. New board members Michael Ephlin and Denise Douglas- Williams agreed it was also that way when they attended OHS.

Carney, who said it was all a "matter of fairness," added it is "never too late to do the right thing."

Carney, who said he was voicing the concerns of parents who live in his elected district, asked who gave Bowles permission to change the district's historic policy. He was not given an answer.

However, Cox said the same policy has been used for the past three years.

Parents present disagreed. Veteran board member Sylvester Belcher said things should not be changed in the middle of the stream.

"Leave it as it is this year," he said. "Then let us form a committee and vote on a policy."

Williams, a former member of the Seminole Court, agreed with Belcher.

"This is not a black or white issue," she said. "Last year, a white and a black girl were taken off the court after they were chosen. Something needs to be in place to stop this."

In fact, there were three cheerleaders taken off the court last year after the ini- tial vote. One of those girls was present at Monday night's meeting, along with her parents and others.

"I had it taken away from me the last two years," the senior said. "I'm here as a voice for all the girls. Something needs to change."

So, how was the court chosen? Cox explained all the girls, in grades 9-12, were placed on a list. Then the football players chose the maids to represent their grades.

Belcher made a motion to leave the court as elected. His motion was seconded by James Baker. Agreeing was Williams. Voting no were Cole, Carney, Ephlin and Shannon Sullivan.

Carney then made a motion to add four non- African-Americans and it passed with the same voting, only reversed.