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An open letter to area high school students


of the Missoulian

For me, covering Missoula crosstown prep athletic competitions is usually a blast.

In general, that’s when I get to see the best of the students, when they show devout pride in their school in loudly cheering their team toward victory.

But Tuesday night at Sentinel gym, I left disheartened after witnessing an ugly display at the volleyball match between Missoula Hellgate and Missoula Sentinel.

The student sections in support of both schools were packed with kids at their most vocal, and most everyone in attendance wore pink in support of breast cancer awareness, which of course I fully endorse.

But the cheering quickly turned toward heckling the opposing student body before it got downright disgusting.
It began lightheartedly, with the Sentinel kids chanting across the court at the Hellgate section, “Let’s play football,” in a not-so-gentile reminder that the Spartans edged Hellgate 15-12 on the gridiron back on Aug. 31.

But things only went south from there and soon the taunting went well past an R rating. Somehow it slipped by Sentinel administrators in attendance, but the Spartan section started a chant that I won’t repeat, but had to do with their side having more sex than the opposition.

Much to my surprise, the Hellgate section responded with a chant that referred to the Sentinel kids with a homosexual slur, which in turn forced Hellgate activities director Lynn Farmer to remove her school’s entire student section aside from the girls who played for the Knights’ junior varsity, sophomore and freshman volleyball teams.
As a result, the Hellgate cheerleaders were left to cheer to a small handful of kids and several Sentinel boys went charging outside to the parking lot, presumably to confront the Hellgate kids who were forced to leave.

This is not what prep athletics are all about. First of all, never ever under any circumstances is it acceptable to use a slur, especially when it deals with sexual preference.

Events like a crosstown volleyball match exist to promote unity among fellow students, united in support of their team. And sporting events are certainly not a forum to belittle the opposition on the field of play or in the stands.

I had hoped that this generation if kids, raised in the most politically-correct era in history, understood that.

I know how rivalries can get heated and that things can be said before rational thought stifles the impulse. But please, in the future, use these games to boost your own school spirit. Don’t tarnish the efforts of the athletes on the field of play by making it a negative experience for all involved.

As a journalist, I know the power a few simple words can have. Please don’t abuse that power, keep it clean and try your best to keep it positive.

10 Comments on "An open letter to area high school students"

  1. Reply

    This is so unfortunate, but really nothing new. The lack of respectful “cheering” has been on a downhill slide for years. Kudos to Lynn Farmer for taking a stand, and not allowing the Hellgate kids to continue. It has been my experience that the Sentinel administration has allowed this type of behavior from their cheering section for years. Choosing to ignore the behavior, rather than nip it in the bud. Thank you for bringing this problem to light. Hopefully the administrations for all Missoula area schools can come up with a united plan to put “fun” and respect back into these rivalries
  2. Reply

    I was at last nights game and heard all of the chants… I also attend 99% of all the Sentinel games. I can tell you from experience that it is bad, especially when Hellgate students are involved. Sentinel did start off with harmless chants, (not sure about the sexual one – was sitting right behind them) but as all people do when they are being taunted, they reacted to the chants from Hellgate – one in particular towards a student who is going to be a dad. From there Hellgate made the homosexual slur (in my opinion is much worse than an alleged sexual slur) – Sentinel response was to chant “there are kids here”. At that point Sentinels administrators did nip the chanting in the bud – student body was no longer allowed to chant but they complied and stayed to cheer on their team. One thing I have noticed over the years, and I know I am not alone in this, Sentinel can play Big Sky all day long and they have a mutual respect for each other, even pose for pictures with each other after games. When Hellgate plays either team the bad chants, name calling, food throwing, etc are the sorts of thing that go on. Last year I literally had to walk my daughter out of a football game for fear of injury from Hellgate students and even parents. They rushed the field and threw water and food at the parent/fan section as they walked by. It was unbelievable. I believe the the activity director for Hellgate did the right thing last night and I hope that they can reign these kids in a bit. Cross town rivals should be a fun spirited event that everyone can enjoy!

    • Reply

      I agreed with you until you made out that Hellgates students are the ones to blame. Yeah, I’ll say we have some kids at my school who take the friendly rivalry to far. But the majority of us are good kids. To make us out to be the ones at fault. Although I was not at the game last night Im appalled that we (BOTH sides) had such outrageous behavior! Us and Sentinel have always had a friendly rivalry when it comes to any type of competition but last night we (again BOTH sides) took the rivalry too far. Im sorry your so close minded to think it’s only Hellgates fault! At least Lynn Farmer did something about our problem kids. Maybe Sentinel administrators should take some more pride in their school and follow in her foot steps.

      • Reply

        I understand your frustration. I am only giving my point of view. My opinion comes from the experiences I have had. I have never, in 3+ years, seen Sentinel students behave the way Hellgate students do at games. Sentinel students have NEVER rushed the field at football games, because they know they are not allowed. At the volleyball game they were told, no more chanting, and they stopped. I know a lot of Hellgate students personally and they do not participate in this manner, so it is sad that the good gets mixed in with the bad. And as far as being close minded, I am not….I admitted that Sentinel responded poorly (in so many words). I believe we all want the same thing, so what are we going to do to make the change?

        • Reply

          We only have rushed the football feild once. We have been told by Lynn Farmer, Dean McCarthy McClaverty, Dean Fuller, Principal Lodge, and now Principal Hendrix, repeatedly that we no longer are aloud to do that at any sporting event. But think…when our football team is so terrible (I will totally admit) that for once we actually win a game, and a game against our across town rivals for that matter, you cant help it to at least have one night to celebrate what a damn miracle that is! Especially when football is such a big deal to high schoolers. No matter how terrible our team may be. Dont think even for a second that we dont get disiplined at our school. The day we came back to school after that incredible victory Principal Lodge came over the load speaker telling us that he understood our excitement towards winning against Sentinel but that we are never again aloud to show our celebration in such a manner. It was a bad representation of our school but when we win only about one game a season because our coach is horrible….its a memory for the ages. Im a Senior now and I rarly go to sporting events other then swimming which Im the captain of and love dearly. But I went to that game that night and its something Im going to remember forever and not in a bad way. In some ways Im glad swimming never has had a student section at any of our meets because I’m appalled at students behaviors now a days. Im sorry you feel our school is so horrid in our manners and bad behavior but instead of saying all of Hellgate is bad, maybe next time word it a little less offensively and say something more along the lines of “SOME Hellgate students do not know how to act accordingly!” I know you know Sentinel students are also bad. But it swings both ways when it comes to our behaivor. We’re High School students after all, some of just dont know how to hold our own anymore I suppose. What a shame.

      • Reply


        There are always 2 sides to what everyone sees. So really there is no pointing fingers here. But last year I was horrified at how some Hellgate parents acted after the football game , even though they won, the were still rude and gloated. I was telling my younger daughter it was okay the team lost, someone has to win or lose, but you need to be gracious regardless of winning or losing . And this women who was a Hellgate parent then attacked with a insult when she heard me discussing this with my child and said hey Fat Lady you don’t know what you are saying. I would say that is where the break down happens it is from parents who have not taught their kids between right and wrong. Here is something else that went on at the volleyball game that you may or may not know about. There is a video proof of it also. But one of the cheerleaders that was upset over some things with the game , afterwards came over and slapped a Sentinel student across the face. How is that for representing
        the school and her cheer team? It is just shameful that it had to come to name call when we are at the games to celebrate sports and the players who put in many hours of training. I was at the game by the way and the Sentinel staff had kicked out 2 kids from the Sentinel side before the Hellgate staff did, I seen them get asked to leave. So for the writer to say they did not address it that was incorrect.
        Lets all learn from this and move forward.

  3. Reply

    This has got to be a joke! As a sentinel student this hurts us. Every other game we get “purple faggots” chanted at us. Including last night and the last time played Hellgate at Hellgate where it was NOT stopped by there administrators! Nobody seems to remember last year when Hellgate beat Sentinel in football there student section stormed the field while Sentinel still had its players on the field! That was a classless act by Hellgate and there administrators. Sentinel High School has some of the best administrators in Montana that care about there students. I guarantee if what happened last night would have happened at Hellgate there administrators would have not said a word to the Hellgate students!

    Michael Cloud
  4. Reply

    I have noticed this more and more not only at the high school level but also at the collegiate level. I don’t mind the occasional BS chant when the play deserves it but it has become so disgusting in UM student section that I have refused to go to games. There is never a time or place for the words that come out of the mouths of some of the students. When I was in high school there were some derogatory remarks at a basketball game and everyone in the student sections on both sides were removed from the gymnasium and the game went on sans students, but we never had another incident. Sometimes tough regulations need to bring the focus back to the athletes. Yes rivalries are good for sports but to go to this extreme is uncalled for and disturbing

  5. Reply

    This is a great opportunity to learn to be the bigger person. Instead of being defensive and trying to explain or excuse actions based on truth – life is not fair – be the bigger person. Admit the higher truth, this is an immature and sorrowful display. Admit your part and promise to do better. In high school I was taught repetition is the mother of learning so I will say it again. Life isn’t fair, be the bigger person.

    Some people say high school is the best time in your life and some say the worst. I believe you start enjoying your life when you learn to handle your emotions internally so you can give the appropriate measured response to any situation outwardly. You can agree with me now and enjoy high school or you can agree with me later when you realize years down the road. Good luck kids, we want the best for you, but we really don’t care if someone called you a name. We expect you to be able to deal with that.

    Life isn’t fair be the bigger person.

    Matt Pickett

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