Homecoming dance canceled amid fallout from Cornell HS cheerleaders' national anthem protest

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. — Fallout from several Cornell High School cheerleaders’ decision to kneel during the national anthem at a recent football game has resulted in the cancelation of the school’s homecoming dance this weekend.

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Channel 11 News learned Wednesday that the backlash ramped up significantly after Cornell School District board member Barbara Pessey posted a doctored video of a news story about the incident on social media in which superintendent Aaron Thomas was directly called out. Pessey simply shared the video from another post and did not create it.

She said her personal protest of the incident backfired, resulting in hundreds of threats being made against Thomas and his family. The Coraopolis Police Department has doubled its presence at the high school and is now patrolling Thomas’ neighborhood.

The current situation also prompted district officials to cancel this weekend’s homecoming dance and reschedule Friday’s football game.

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Thomas issued the following statement to Channel 11 News:

"The Cornell School District has experienced a situation like no other in recent days. Due in large part to inaccuracies and arguments spread through social media, the school district has received phone calls and emails from across the country. Unfortunately, this communication is to express anger and displeasure over this situation and it has resulted in a great disturbance to the district. Simply put, things have gotten out of hand. 
“Personally, I have been at the brunt of these attacks due to the inaccurate belief that I set up our local veterans to be protested in front of. That is the furthest thing from the truth and I would never set up, or orchestrate something such as that. I had the privilege to meet with members of the local VFW Post 402 last evening. I was able to apologize to the veterans as a group, and to also shed light on the false perceptions that are occurring over social media. 
“We were all in agreement that it is time to move on, and I believe a stronger relationship was built from our discussion. I look forward working with them in an extended manner in the future. The Cornell School District is looking to move beyond this as a district and community. We are a small, close-knit community and school and this has caused a great disruption for us. We are simply ready to move on.” 

Pessey said she never imagined that the video she shared on social media would ignite such hatred toward the school from all over the country.

“I thought I was doing a good thing,” she said.

Pessey told Channel 11 News that some are asking for her to resign from her seat on the school board.

“I have no intention (of resigning). I have a responsibility to my community who voted me in,” she said.

School officials said Friday night’s football game will likely be moved to Friday afternoon, and only players and their families will be allowed to attend. No students, band members or cheerleaders will be permitted to watch the game.