What is the Manteca Unified School District leadership waiting for — fist cuffs?
Everyone has been turning a blind eye of sorts to the growing friction between Manteca High and East Union High as it centers round sports. While animosity is far from universal between the two schools, it is still there.
It ebbs and it retreats. And to be honest it doesn’t seem to be rooted in “hardcore” issues dealing with economic, social, cultural, or ethnic issues. Instead it is essentially an outgrowth of taunting.
The fact that such a problem is simmering is ironic. Fifty years ago when the first split occurred everyone related of how Manteca going from a one high school town to two was struggling to accept the new reality.
For almost a half century, Manteca High was the only show in town. When they played football it was the town of Manteca against the town of Tracy, the town of Oakdale, or the town of Sonora. High school band concerts were scheduled for three consecutive nights due to the demand.
It proved hard for people used to cheering for Manteca High to suddenly have to split their loyalties.
The birth of East Union High produced the predictable cultural issues that would hit any town growing beyond one high school. Families were split wearing different colors. Some merchants who were second or third generation Manteca High graduates caught up in traditions were less than thrilled to be asked to display signs promoting East Union High’s football homecomings.
The usual healthy sports rivalry between schools was morphing into taunting and stupid little acts. (Depending upon your age, think burning your school’s letters into the opponent’s football field using gasoline, toilet papering the other schools, the age-old hanging the other team’s mock players/mascots in effigy, or social media put downs.)
It is usually starts in fun but then backslides into taunting. It ends up rubbing the targets of the taunts the wrong way and soon revenge is the order of the day. Before you known it, things get out of control.
Call it misdirected school spirit and/or pride. Call it tribalism. Regardless of what you call it, there is a good chance it can pick up steam and spiral out of control creating permanent rifts that will be counterproductive.
This was the case roughly 48 years ago when Dick Durham was the East Union principal and Ed Brasmer was the principal at Manteca High. Brasmer had gotten wind that Manteca High students were planning a watermelon attack on floats being assembled for the East Union High homecoming parade in the Golden West School parking lot. He made it known that if that were to happen people would not be playing football and would likely be suspended.
Brasmer and Durham — along with the administrative staffs of both schools and at the district level — made eliminating animosity between the two schools and nurturing a positive rivalry a top priority.
While no one wants to make a mountain out of a molehill, Manteca Unified can ill afford to let a molehill grow into a mountain.
District leaders are correct in noting that as the district enters into what is expected to be significant growth in the near future, that a good education is more than just providing buildings. The challenge is to make sure what goes on in those buildings stays up with the times and the changing needs of students.
The same is true of the social fabric. Making sure growth doesn’t pull the school district apart on any level but especially when it comes to the interaction of students from one campus to another is essential.
You want kids to be true to their school but you also want their interactions with other schools to be more like that of Canada and the United States and not North Korea and the United States.
Anyone who has lived near the Canadian border will tell you that what amounts to razzing of sorts — making light of their neighbors to the north and vice versa — goes on from time-to-time. What is going on here is different.
This should not be dismissed simply as kids being kids. If it is allowed to get out of control, the damage to the community will be significant.
It sounds corny but maybe there needs to be an exchange program — if you will — where students spend a bit of time with their peers on the other’s turf. It works in other areas such as JROTC, FFA and even ROP classes.
It could be something as low-key as high school athletic programs working together having players from opposing teams conduct mini-camps together during PE periods at district elementary schools or having a social activity away from the playing field.
If the district can’t come up with a touch feely solution, then maybe they should use good old discipline.
If there is evidence a student is caught engaging in bullying or demeaning behavior attacking another student — whether it is an athlete or non-athlete — on social media, the district needs to step up and dish out appropriate punishment. The same goes for in your-face conduct at games.
As for any parents or non-students that cross the line, banishment from attending any Manteca Unified sporting event at any campus in the district for a year should be instituted.
If the district choses to do nothing, when a significant blow up occurs they will be just as responsible as the athlete, student or parent that is out of line.