FOLSOM (CBS13) — Controversy erupts at Vista Del Lago High School in Folsom over students chanting "USA."
It's a popular way to for students to show pride during sporting events and rallies, but school and district officials are now warning students that the chants could appear inappropriate and intolerant.
"I wasn't angry, but I was definitely like, 'Why can't we chant USA?'" said senior Ryan Bernal, "To say USA, you know, we're all the same. We're all American. It doesn't matter what your skin tone is or where you're from."
The chants are now causing chatter campus-wide after school staff brought up the topic to a leadership class.
Folsom Cordova Unified Communications Director Daniel Thigpen said, "To practice empathy, to practice kindness and to practice patriotism. You can do both."
At some schools across the country, the chants appeared to be used in derogatory ways toward opponents of different ethnicities. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), which oversees high school athletics, addressed the concerns with local districts.
"There's a time and a place to yell that and cheer that," said CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Mike Garrison.
The school's principal sent out an email to families Wednesday and relayed the same message to students over the school's P.A. system, clarifying any confusion. She told students and parents that sometimes "We can communicate an unintended message." She also said USA chanting is welcome, but it may be best to do it at what she says are appropriate times, like following the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance.
School officials worry the chants could come across as intolerant and offensive to some, but parents see it differently, as an expression of pride and acceptance.
Mother Natalie Woodbury said, "I want to chant USA because I want us to pull together and help, not because I want anybody to feel left out or not a part of our country. "
District officials say they want to make clear that there is no ban on chanting USA.
I'm glad that they will still allow our students to cheer for our country," said Mother Cody Santero.
It's a chant Bernal says will continue to be about uniting, not dividing.
"We're all one. We all stand as one together," she said.
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The district says there has never been a complaint about USA chants at the school. Students say there's likely to be a lot of chanting at this Friday's football game, where the theme is USA pride.
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