News Articles

High school band’s Disney invitation leads to controversy in Missouri town

STOCKTON, Mo. (BP)–It was a routine request that turned into a media circus. A high school band director submitted a request to the school board for the band to march in a parade at Disney World in 1999. In a Feb. 18 school board meeting, the band director withdrew that request after the school board refused to vote on it that night.
That board meeting – which drew anti-homosexual picketers from Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kan., and a deluge of media from around the state – capped off four months of controversy in the small southwest Missouri community of Stockton. The town has drawn nationwide attention for the school board’s decision not to allow its high school band to take a trip to Disney World.
“The reason why we opposed the trip had to do with the gay-friendly policies of Disney and the questionable films put out by their subsidiaries,” school superintendent Ken Spurgeon said. “That’s not reflective of what we want our kids to be around.”
Spurgeon, a member of First Southern Baptist Church in Stockton, said being Baptist did not play a role in his – or the board’s – position on the issue. He noted only one school board member is a Baptist, and some belong to the Assemblies of God.
The board member who first mentioned Disney’s “gay-friendly” polices does not belong to either church. Both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God have encouraged their members to boycott Disney.
“We did not look on this decision as a religious issue,” Spurgeon said.
“It was a moral issue and a values issue. We teach values up here every day, and we didn’t feel this was any different than adopting a program on sexual abstinence or teaching kids not to cheat.”
Some Stockton residents, though, did not see it that way. “They have no right to tell us, as parents, where our kids can go,” Jana Hendricks told the Springfield News-Leader.
Spurgeon noted the board of any school has the authority to decide what students do — as long as they are using school equipment, going under the school’s insurance or doing anything under the sponsorship of the school.
He acknowledged many of the band members were disappointed. “But one young man in band told the media he thought (the board’s decision) was the morally right thing to do.” The school board’s authority is what First Southern pastor Ron Gross said he and other church members supported.
“This issue was absolutely not Southern Baptist-generated in Stockton,” Gross emphasized. “None of us fought or spoke in support of the boycott. We did go to the school board meeting to show our support for the school board and their authority to decide.”
The band director now has submitted a request for another destination – reportedly San Antonio – for a band trip.

    About the Author

  • Stacey Hamby