District under scrutiny after recent events


Morgan Montgomery

A student looks through current articles about Olathe South High School.

Morgan Montgomery, Editor-In-Chief

Olathe South High School has been receiving a substantial amount of negative attention due to recent events that happened over homecoming weekend via national and local news stations. Principal Dr. Dale Longenecker has been contacted regarding how to handle the situation from locations outside of the United States, such as in Europe.

 “We’ve had a lot of requests for information,” Longenecker said. “I’ve been contacted by other schools, we’ve been contacted by multiple news outlets. We’ve had random attorneys thinking we’re going one way or the other way too far. Just random people with good intentions. But it’s widespread. It’s very widespread.”

Not all of the feedback has been positive, though. Many of the contacts have had negative, even hateful, comments regarding the situation. 

“Some are helpful, some are hateful, some are hating on the school, some are hating on me, lots of hate towards the students involved,” Longenecker said. “You know, people want action. And they don’t necessarily stop to think about the complexity of the situation.”

Longenecker began receiving contacts almost immediately after the photo surfaced, interrupting Longenecker’s afternoon and evening. 

“So late Friday afternoon, before the football game, it blew up,” Longenecker said. “I mean, I’m having a nice dinner here in the office before I go to football, everything’s fine. It’s quiet. I’m watching the news and my phone just starts to light up at about 5:30. And we’re just getting report after report after report after report. And so by six o’clock, we probably had 100 reports. By first quarter of the football game, it’s hundreds of reports.”

Longenecker and other administrators, such as superintendent Dr. Brent Yeager and public relations for the district Maggie Kolb, were trying to respond to as many concerns as possible and inform Falcon parents. 

“[Kolb was] helping me and Dr. Yeager craft some responses that we could send to parents because one of the first things we wanted to do was tell our parents we knew about it, because that was important,” Longenecker said.

District administration wanted to ensure the community as a whole were aware of the situation as well as the actions being taken by the district. 

“That was just a really an efficient process as we kind of moved to try to communicate with our families that we knew what was going on because it looks badly for the school. It’s just you know, it’s a bad reflection of Olathe South. It’s a bad reflection of Olathe and Johnson County and Kansas. It’s just not a good look for anybody,” Longenecker said. 

There were a lot of contacts from random people who saw the post on social media. Even former Olathe North alumni and current linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals, Isaiah Simmons made comments. 

“I think it’s mainly just random people because they’ve seen it on social media and they look at it and somebody made a point to tag him with our Twitter,” Longenecker said. “And so the school Twitter and the district Twitter and then the emails, our emails were attached to a bunch of it. My email, there was another local high school involved. They were tagged, and the baseball team was tagged. And so the administration of those two schools, and the baseball team had been tagged on a bunch of communication.”

Though they haven’t gotten to all, the administration and Longenecker are trying to respond to all emails they can, but the volume of emails is currently difficult to manage.

“My goal is, if I’ve missed anybody, I apologize, but I have tried to respond to any Olathe South parent or any Olathe South student that’s emailed me. Or you know, context about the piece,” Longenecker said.

While Longenecker has been fervently responding to emails, he isn’t using Twitter to communicate or interact. 

“We post stuff on [Twitter] and it’s kind of an informational piece for us. So anybody that’s taking the time to email us that we’re aware of that’s local, that’s the Falcon family, we’ve responded to, and we want to make sure that they know what’s going on,” Longenecker said. “That was part of our initial communication, just that nobody’s condoning this for any stretch. But it’s complicated. If you look at the picture, you’re able to tell that’s off campus, that did not occur on campus.”

The fact that it did not happen on campus has created a roadblock. In June, there was a Supreme Court case, Mahanoy vs. B.L., that determined a student could not be punished for something outside of the school’s campus. 

“There’s a lot of parallels between this and [the Mahanoy vs. B.L. case] so we are being very cautious. Clearly this act does not fit our student code of conduct. That would be way out of line for anything we expect in Olathe but we’re also trying to make the right legal decisions,” Longenecker said. “We respect the First Amendment and so we’re having our legal counsel go through how those two things gel together. And we’re just taking our time and going slow.”

Though the negative attention seems omnipresent currently and will continue to circulate for the foreseeable future, Longenecker is focused on the future and how to repair the community moving forward. 

“So as a school, how do we change the narrative? How do we rebrand that?” Longenecker said. “That’s never going away. So as a student body, as a faculty, as an administrating Staff, how do we go through and show that we’re committed to diversity, we’re committed to equity, we’re committed to inclusion, as we move forward, that’s going to be the story is how do we move on from this piece?”

The district was already working to help with their in-house diversity and inclusion team even as everything was happening. 

“I hope it’s a turning point for the school, for our community, for our whole district that we have work to do,” Longenecker said. “We had diversity training on Friday for the entire staff and then administrators all came back in [the] afternoon [and] we did [another] round of training there. While there’s pictures being taken, we’re in diversity training as we move into it, so the district knows we have work to do, we’re committed to doing the work, and we’re moving forward. So I think that’s the narrative we move into.”

As opposed to focusing on the present, it’s Longenecker’s goal to focus on and improve the future.

“I really hope it’s a point of inspiration for our whole school to move forward, our whole district, our whole county to move forward,” Longenecker said.