USA v. Barbie: Controversy erupts over football game theme at Rolling Meadows High School

Rolling Meadows High School officials found themselves playing defense Wednesday amid a growing social-media fueled controversy over the student spirit theme for tonight's football game against Deerfield High School.

According to a message Principal Megan Kelly sent to the school community, the theme "Barbie and Ken" was chosen prior to the start of the school year and released to students Aug. 22.

However, Kelly states, some "incredibly passionate" students recently have sought to change the theme. Social media posts indicate those students instead wanted a "USA" or "red, white and blue" theme for the game. Other Northwest Suburban High School District 214 schools, including Prospect, Hersey and Buffalo Grove, had similar USA theme nights at their football games last week.

Typically, students in the stands wear clothing reflecting the theme for each game. Other themes this year at Rolling Meadows include "Tropical," "Wild West" and "Superheroes," the Stampede pep club's Instagram page indicates.

According to a message shared with the Daily Herald by a student, and posted on social media, a school staff member sent leaders of the Stampede club a message threatening to cancel the group's activities for the remainder of the football season if they didn't stick with the original Barbie theme.

"THIS ABSOLUTELY CANNOT HAPPEN," the message reads. "If it does, there will be immediate consequences."

The message adds that changing the theme would be in direct defiance of school leadership and "will not be taken lightly."

In her letter Wednesday, Kelly described that message as an effort to hold students to the original theme.

"Although well intentioned, neither the tone nor the content of the message were appropriate, nor do they reflect the manner in which we as a school or district communicate with our students, staff, or families," Kelly wrote. "The message was sent to nine students and was then subsequently posted on social media, which has reverberated well beyond the walls of our school community."

School staff members have received threatening calls and emails, she added.

"I would like to reiterate: all District 214 students are always free to wear what they like to school or any school-sponsored event," Kelly wrote. "We simply ask that their choices adhere to the guidelines set forth in our dress code."

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