AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – Band parents in Aiken County are speaking out against what they say is an unfair isolation of band students during football games.
A petition started by an anonymous user is circulating on social media and so far has gained more than 2,000 signatures.
It accuses the Aiken County school district of moving band students on the sidelines in a “money grab” to make more room for ticket holders.
Stadiums are at 70% capacity and larger bands take up more space in the stands because they have to socially distance.
Some schools are choosing to move the bands to the sidelines rather than moving capacity to 50%. Parents say it’s not fair to the band students.
“They’re part of the game. They’re part of the atmosphere and for them to be taken out of the stands is a huge deal. Part of the issue is safety but it’s also part of the atmosphere that the band projects from the stands,” said Dena Thomas, President of NAHS Band Boosters.
Thomas wondered why the band students are being forced to socially distance when the football players and cheerleaders are not. She claimed that there’s no difference between playing instruments and cheering.
“I can send you some data on how much actually comes out of the instruments that has been studied and looked at. It’s not as much as you would think,” said Thomas.
Mike Rosier with ACPSD said the decision to relocate band students has nothing to do with money and everything to do with the health crisis.
“I looked back at our covid numbers last year for this same time period, so we had 18 positive cases and 195 quarantines. So we were doing this last year with numbers like that. And our current numbers this past week were 350 positive student cases and over 5000 student quarantines,” Rosier explained.
He said it’s up to individual schools if they move the band or go to 50% stadium capacity and leave them in the stands.
The petition claims if the band are moved to the sideline, it will be a permanent move. Rosier said that’s not true at all. Once the pandemic is fully under control, there is no question the bands will be back where they belong, cheering on their school.
“We totally understand those concerns and I would say, that’s not an item that’s being discussed. Like I said, if it were tied to funding then maybe that would be something we would look at, but it’s not. This is simply a health and safety measure. And so once the conditions have eased, and we are safely able to put folks in stadiums at more normal capacity, we’ll be happy to have those bands up there doing what they do,” said Rosier.