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Movie screening cancelled by Mass. high school for being 'racially insensitive'

Movie screening cancelled by Mass. high school for being 'racially insensitive.' (Photo: MGN)

(KUTV) — A high school in Massachusetts became embroiled in controversy on Tuesday after it cancelled a school showing of Disney's "Cool Runnings," citing the film's allegedly insensitive content.

This week is "Winter Week" at Wayland High School, which is designed to give students a period of relaxation before midterms.

Every Wednesday of the winter week features a film, and the student council announced on Tuesday that "Cool Runnings" was this year's choice.

"Cool Runnings" is a Disney film about the 1988 Jamaican Bobsled team and is renowned as one of the most famous Olympic underdog stories. The PG-rated movie was released seven years before the oldest students were born, and so many students had not heard of the movie until the "Winter Week" announcement.

However, only hours after the student council's announcement, the school principal sent an email to students informing them that the movie was cancelled:

Following the recent announcement that Cool Runnings would be the movie shown this year, I received concerns from members of our community that raised my awareness about elements of the movie that could be viewed as culturally and racially insensitive. After researching these concerns further, I felt that Cool Runnings no longer fit the purpose, values, and scheduling format for an all-school event. I decided to cancel today’s showing.
While disappointing for students, I want to emphasize that this experience has inspired productive, honest conversation about stereotypes in the media, the nature of narrative, and subtle, racially insensitive messages as compared to overt racism.

The following reply-chain had more than 150 responses from students. The fallout spiraled into full-blown outrage.

Principal Allyson Mizoguchi explained herself, saying, "The movie is not really overtly racist. It is the subtlety of stereotypes in the movie." As an example, she explains that the film is about Jamaicans who travel to Canada in a "fish-out-of-water" story, touching on differences in culture and climate.

"I think high school students are mature enough," said Mackenzie Barber, who had already seen the movie years ago. "As high school students, these are things we should be exposed to."

In the wake of the email firestorm, the principal scheduled an emergency forum with students.

"It's a PG movie for kids 8 and above... we are 8 and above," one student said.

"Jamaica is sending their first women's bobsled team this year," another student said. "Why not? This is the perfect time to show this movie."

Many students said they would watch the film at home, despite the principal's decision.

"I'm definitely gonna go home and Netflix," a student said.

"Gonna go home and watch the movie anyway," another stated.

A survey by the student paper of 115 students reportedly showed that only two supported the principal's decision.

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