CCS responds to high school bands’ absence in Soldiers Reunion parade

Staff Writer

It's been one week since the Soldiers Reunion parade and many band parents aren't sure why the Catawba County School marching bands were not represented in the event.
According to several parents of band students, they were told the bands would not take part in this year's parade due to the heat and not having enough time to practice.
However, weather reports say the temperature for last week's parade was about the same as previous years when the bands did march in the parade.
Some band parents also question the 'lack of practice' excuse.
"But (the bands) have been practicing for several weeks," one band parent told the Observer News Enterprise. The parent wished to remain anonymous but said her rising junior student was upset that they could not march in the parade like in previous years. "They started practicing that same time last year, and the year before that, and it was never an issue. They even played the next night at the football game. So what was so different this year?"
Dr. Matt Stover, superintendent for Catawba County School, did not return phone calls or an email from the O-N-E. However, Catawba County School Board Attorney Crystal Davis did email a statement regarding the bands' absence in the parade.
"The Catawba County Board of Education has given careful consideration to previous requests from the Catawba County NAACP and the Sons of Confederate Veterans with regard to participation in the "Old Soldiers Reunion Parade."  Marching bands across North Carolina and the United States do not march in parades for the purpose of endorsing or condoning the speech, displays, and actions of others in parades.  Rather, they do so to display their talents and abilities and to entertain others. The board has previously made it clear that it in no way endorses or condones the use or display of the Confederate flag or any other symbol to intimidate, harass or bully others or otherwise promote hate speech.  However, the Board has previously decided not to prohibit its schools’ bands from marching in this event.  The board will, however, instruct each band director to explain to all participating band members that the Confederate flag may be displayed in the parade and that if any student does not feel comfortable marching in the parade because of this, the student will not be required to participate and will not be disciplined or suffer any negative consequences as a result of his or her decision not to participate."  

This has been the Board's policy for several years, according to Davis.
Nowhere in the statement does it site hot weather or lack of practice as a reason for the bands to skip the parade. Also missing from the statement is who made the decision to pull all five county bands from the parade.
Band parents say their children were never given the option to march.
"If that is (the school board's) policy, then what changed," said one band mother. "If that same policy was in place last year, and the year before, then what changed this year to where we couldn't march?"
Soldiers Reunion General Chairman Wayne Dellinger said this was the first year that he can remember that the county school bands were not part of the parade.
Dellinger said when he first heard the rumors that the bands might skip this year's parade, he called a principal at one of the schools to find out if this rumor was true.
"I was told (by the principal) that the band directors got together and all decided to not be in the parade," he said. Dellinger didn't know what the reason was for the directors to agree to not be in attendance.
Dellinger said he heard a lot of people were disappointed in the bands not being in the parade, but they were glad that Newton-Conover's band and cheerleaders were there. He said he will reach out to the school soon with hopes to have all the bands return for next year's parade.
"I'm going to talk to (the band directors) and explain that we have not had any incidents that have put the bands in jeopardy," he said.
Although there has been much controversy over the parade recently, officials with the Newton Police Department said the event is typically peaceful, despite the rumors.
"There were absolutely zero threats before this year's parade," said Newton Police Maj. Tim Hayes."Last year, we had rumors, but those were rumors that started in the community after (the violent attack in) Charlottesville. We feel this a perfectly fun, family-oriented event and we hope it stays that way."