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Published in Print: May 20, 1998, as 'Battle of Sexes' Rally Prompts Outcry at an Arizona High School

'Battle of Sexes' Rally Prompts Outcry at an Arizona High School

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The principal of a Tempe, Ariz., high school has spent much of the past two weeks apologizing to students and parents for a pep rally that sparked taunts aimed at females and included a boy and a girl wrestling in gelatin.

"We don't expect kids to come to school to be made fun of or be ridiculed so someone can have a laugh," Michael Gemma, the principal of McClintock High School, said he told the students in classroom visits.

He acknowledged that plans for the April 24 "Battle of the Sexes" rally--which was meant to raise school spirit--had gone beyond the bounds of good taste and that the event at moments had gotten out of hand.

"It was our fault" for failing to monitor the planning for the event more closely, he said.

During the rally at the 2,000-student school, some male spectators raised a chant that went: "Pork chop, pork chop, good and greasy, McClintock girls are easy," according to the administrators. Others batted around an inflated condom, and put up a sign saying, "Girls, go back to the kitchen."

Assistant principals removed the poster before the rally and took away the condom, but the chant was over before administrators could respond, said Mr. Gemma and his boss, James D. Buchanan, the superintendent of the 12,000-student Tempe Union High School District.

School board member Terri Angichiodo said teachers told her the chant was repeated, however.

Concerns About Violence

The pep rally drew several protests from parents, teachers, and students at the school, but exploded on the local media scene after it became the subject of a front-page story in The Arizona Republic newspaper.

One advocacy group working at the school condemned the behavior at the rally as the kind that can lead to rape and violence.

Ms. Angichiodo said she did not believe the school's response had gone far enough for the harm done. "We're forgetting the kids who were humiliated, disrespected," she said. Such disparagement of girls, she added, can lead to more serious forms of harassment.

Superintendent Buchanan said last week that he was still investigating the incident and had not yet decided whether disciplinary measures would be taken against administrators at the school.

"In the initial planning," the superintendent said, "they were not as vigilant as they needed to be, and when things started occurring, they didn't act as quickly as they needed to."

'We Tripped'

Mr. Gemma, the principal, said that in the aftermath of the rally, administrators would keep closer watch on the planning for student-run assemblies. He added that student leaders were rewriting the guidelines for such events.

The student body president addressed the school last week, acknowledging that "we tripped" and apologizing to those offended, Mr. Gemma said.

The principal said that student leaders from his school had gotten the idea for a "Battle of the Sexes" rally from a recent state student-council convention. At least one other Phoenix-area high school, Highland High School in the Gilbert district, held a similar rally after the one at McClintock High.

"I think we made a mistake in calling it 'The Battle of the Sexes' and pandering to the gender issue," said Gilbert Superintendent Walter J. Delecki. But overall, he added, "the students enjoyed it, and it was seen as successful."

Vol. 17, Issue 36, Pages 6-7

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