'Trail of Tears' sign at basketball game prompts apology from school

BROOKFIELD, Ohio -- An Ohio school district is apologizing over an offensive sign its cheerleaders made for a recent basketball game.

As they prepared to face off against the Girard High School Indians, the Brookfield High cheerleaders made a sign that read "Get ready to leave in a trail of tears."

Brookfield Superintendent Velina Taylor apologized profusely for the faux pas.

She said the girls had no clue that the actual Trail of Tears was the U.S. federal government's forced relocation of the Cherokee nation in the 1800s during which thousands died.

"I lost some sleep over it," Taylor said. "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."

"So 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.

In a message sent to WKBN on Facebook, a viewer called the sign Brookfield cheerleaders were holding before the boys tip-off against the Girard Indians "disgusting."

Another Ohio school found itself in a similar situation this fall.

Taylor said that when one of Brookfield's girls was preparing for the game, she looked up signs on the internet and scrolled through some pictures.

"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. "Never clicked on the story. One more click and we wouldn't be talking right now."

Taylor said steps have already been put into place to make sure something like this doesn't happen again, and that includes having the principal approve all signs that the cheerleaders make.

Brookfield has already sent apology letters to Girard's staff, students, and fans.

"We hold no ill will towards her - Brookfield students, great people, classy people and just put this behind us as a learning experience," said Girard School Supt. David Cappuzzello.

"We're trying to address the harm that we may have caused and trying to ensure that we won't do something like that again," Taylor said.