UCPS reverses ban on music with lyrics

Jul. 18, 2013 @ 04:52 PM

Union County Public Schools has changed its somewhat controversial policy regarding music at school events. 

Last year, the school banned music with lyrics at sporting and other school events. Officials said it was because too many offensive lyrics had been played. 

At a recent school board meeting, students and parents showed up en masse to talk about the lack of lyrics. Members of dance teams, in particular, were upset by the change, saying it impacted their ability to motivate and captivate crowds. 

The new guidelines, crafted by Superintendent Mary Ellis, principals and senior staff at a meeting, involve a centralized music screening committee. 

The committee will consist of the director of athletics, a principal, an athletic director, a male and female coach, a parent and a student. The committee will hold two meetings a year to determine an “approved song list” once before the semester begins and then again before the second semester. 

The committee for the first year will include members from the Marvin Ridge, Forest Hills, Porter Ridge, Weddington and Central Academy clusters. The second meeting of the year will consist of members from the Cuthbertson, Parkwood, Piedmont, Monroe and Sun Valley clusters. 

In the new process, the director of athletics will send a flash drive to each of the 10 clusters and each cluster will put between 10 and 15 complete songs on the drive and return them to the director by late July.

The committee will then listen to the songs and approve them taking into consideration any hidden meaning, references, language, innuendos or copyright infringements. 

A compiled approved list will be made public to the system and the high school and middle school principals will receive a flash drive with the approved songs. Schools do not have to revert back to music with lyrics, however, it is a site-based decision. 

Dance teams, cheerleaders and step teams must submit their choreographed music. If they do not have a purchased set list, they must also use songs on the approved list. 

If any group violates the guidelines, they group will have to go back to only using instrumental lyrics. A second violation will result in revoking music of any kind for the rest of the season. 

Karen Shelton, a parent whose daughter will attend Marvin Ridge High School, spoke at the school board meeting and created a petition to return lyrics on the website change.org.

“I, at this point, am pleased that lyrics will be (at) school athletic events and I am looking forward to see how the new guidelines will be put into practice and how it will be implemented throughout the school year,” Shelton said. 

Shelton’s daughter is on the dance team at Marvin Ridge High School. Many dancers spoke at the school board meeting saying that they felt limited by only using instrumental tracks. Shelton said they are still trying to clarify the exact guidelines.

“They’re definitely very optimistic,” she said. “The music has always been a big motivating factor of their participation.”

She said the lyrics inspire their choreography and give them a connection to their audience.

“(They are) very excited to have their music back,” Shelton said.

Shelton was worried about the decision being site-based and hoped that it would be implemented across all of the schools. 

“I’m hopeful that there will be music back at all schools,” she said.

She said she supports every school having freedom of expression at their sporting events.