Hendersonville High School

HHS Principal Bob Cotter says the pep rally before the football game with Oakland was important and in full compliance with county policy.


“When we started school, Dr. (Del) Phillips, director of schools, asked us to create as normal a school year as possible for you guys after everything that we’ve been through, and that’s what my goal is,” he told The Ville News in a recent interview. “We had a pep rally because we always have a pep rally for the first home game.”


The August 20 event caused a stir on social media with some questioning the decision as COVID-19 cases climbed.


One person posted on Twitter: “HHS thought it was a good idea to hold a mask-less pep rally. Meanwhile, our local hospitals are begging us to do anything to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”


Cotter said the rally was not “mask-less” and met county School Board policy.


“We have a policy in Sumner County Schools that masks are optional and anybody who wants to wear a mask may wear a mask,” he said, adding that some students, teachers, and parents at the rally wore masks and some did not – just as county policy allows.


“I felt like, as a student body, you guys needed to be able to have that pep rally and a sense of normalcy,” he said.


The pep rally began about 9 a.m. in the school gym. By 1:30 that afternoon, Cotter said, county principals were asked in a meeting to “look at things because of rises in cases.”


Among the changes at HHS, he said, are keeping non-essential visitors from the building and limiting field trips for non-competitive events.


The priority from the state is to keep students safe and in school, Cotter said.


“The state Board of Education deemed that there is no option to go virtual or hybrid right now,” he said. “That is in state board policy. We don’t even have that as an option.”


As for critics on social media, the principal said he tries “not to engage in it.”


“There’s tons of stuff that I find on my Twitter feed or I find on Facebook that I could very readily and very easily come back with a reply, but it doesn’t do me any good and it doesn’t do the school any good to do that.”


Story by Joey Palek and Aidan Jones

Hendersonville High School - 123 Cherokee Road - Hendersonville, TN 37075 - 615.824.6162