Brookfield Schools apologizing for offensive ‘Trail of Tears’ sign

BROOKFIELD, Ohio (WYTV) – Brookfield School District is apologizing over an offensive sign its cheerleaders made for a basketball game earlier this week.

Brookfield cheerleaders held the sign before tip-off against the Girard Indians on Tuesday. It read, “Get ready to leave in a trail of tears.”

A WYTV 33 First News viewer sent us the photo, calling the sign “disgusting.”

As soon as the athletic director saw what the sign said, he told the cheerleaders to turn it around and explained that it was inappropriate.

Brookfield Superintendent Velina Taylor said she lost sleep over it. She apologized profusely for the faux pas.

“One of our big stressing points here is empathy, understanding, respect for all and clearly, that’s not the message that was sent with that sign.”

Taylor said the girls had no clue “Trail of Tears” referenced the forced migration of the Cherokee nation, where several thousands of people died.

“That’s certainly one story that we need to make sure that the kids are aware of because it’s a dark part of our past,” Taylor said. “The cheerleaders are gonna watch a video of the story of the Trail of Tears, just to have that kind of cemented in their minds so they understand right now what all the fuss is about.”

Another Ohio school found themselves in a similar situation this fall. When one of Brookfield’s girls preparing for the game looked up signs online, she found a picture of that school’s offensive sign.

“Saw one she really liked that looked really good, that included the offensive phrase, and she just copied that down and they made the sign,” Taylor said.

She said if the cheerleader had clicked on the story instead of just looking at the picture, it would have never happened.

“We’re trying to address the harm that we may have caused and trying to make sure we won’t do something like that again.”

Brookfield sent apology letters to Girard’s staff, students and fans.

“We hold no ill will toward her. Brookfield students, great people, classy people,” said Girard Superintendent David Cappuzzello. “Just put this behind us as a learning experience.”

Taylor said steps are already in place to prevent another incident in the future, including requiring the principal to approve all of the cheerleaders’ signs.

The Girard Indians won that game against Brookfield 54 to 31.

The Brookfield cheerleaders held the sign before Tuesday's basketball game against the Girard Indians