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Principal Congratulates Cheerleaders Who Dressed Up In Racist Outfits

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A Redlands high school principal made a bizarre comment during a graduation ceremony about a controversial incident last year involving cheerleaders dressing up as latino "gangstas." He gave them kudos for their "strength and courage" for some reason.

Redlands East Valley High School principal John Maloney seemed to praise the school's cheerleaders for an incident last year that many criticized for being offensive and racist, according to Redlands Daily Facts. During last week's graduation ceremony, Maloney told the crowd: "These are high school kids. We don't care about what is happening in Congress but we care about a of couple cheerleaders dressing up. I admire those girls for their strength and courage."

Last year, as part of a "Gangsta Day" team-building exercise that was somehow approved by the team's advisers, 13 cheerleaders wore elaborate costumes with baggy pants, plaid shirts, and heavy eye makeup. In photos that surfaced over social media last summer, the students were seen throwing gang signs with their outfits and posing with fake weapons. Some put basketballs under their shirts so they could pretend that they were pregnant. Yes, really.

It turns out that this wasn't the first time students dressed up as gangstas. There are photos dating as far back as 2010 of cheerleaders in similar outfits. When the incident was investigated last year, the cheerleading program was suspended, and the team advisers who signed off to these "Spirit Day" activities no longer work at the school.

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Maloney's comments didn't sit well with parents. Parent Aja Henriquez told Redlands Daily Facts: "My child went to graduation to celebrate her friend’s accomplishments and instead got a lesson in reinforcing institutional racism."

Redlands Unified Superintendent Lori Rhodes told Redlands Daily Facts that the students made mistakes, like we all do, and they have since apologized for the photos. She added that the school's principal didn't mean to minimize what the cheerleaders did. "John’s remarks focused on the concept that the students made a mistake, and that he was proud of how the school pulled together in the face of extreme media attention," she said.