The sign read: "Hey Indians, Get ready to leave in a trail of tears round 2."
"I felt disrespected, hurt, that we allowed our students, our youth to participate in this," said Brian Sappier, a board member with the Society of American Indian Government Employees. "Being Native American month, this actually has more of an impact. It shows racism does still exist."
The principal of McAdory High School, Tod Humphries, said that his students did not mean for the sign to be offensive. "I think they made a mistake of not checking the sign," Humphries said.
Humphries wrote a letter of apology which was posted to the school website.
"On 11/15/2013 at a football game at McAdory High School, a sign was displayed that made reference to the "Trail of Tears" in which Native Americans were subjected to horrific atrocities. This was not condoned by the school administration, the Jefferson County Board of Education or the community. The person who would normally be responsible for approving such signs is out on maternity leave, and I take full responsibility that arrangements were not made to have the signs pre-approved before the ballgame. Please accept our sincere apologies to the Native American people and to anyone who was offended by the reference to an event that is a stain on our Nation's past forever."
Jefferson County Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin released a statement expressing disappointment and saying "It was insensitive to our Native Americans and we apologize to them."
Nowlin also said all students would receive a lesson on the Trail of Tears.
"The cheerleading squad will be disciplined. The sponsor of the cheerleaders was on maternity leave and the sign was not approved in advance by the school administration. The principal is asking all social studies teachers to teach each grade a lesson about the real Trail of Tears. We can use this unfortunate event as an important teachable moment. We apologize to all Native Americans and to any person who was offended. Our curriculum department will ensure that all students in the future will have a lesson on the Trail of Tears."