Controversy unfolds at Blacksburg High School over girls lacrosse team’s ‘Pray for Peace’ shirts

The team was told to not wear the shirts because they could be considered religious or political

BLACKSBURG, Va. – The message to “Pray for Peace” is causing controversy in the Blacksburg area.

Clare Levison has a daughter Elise Levison who plays on the girl’s lacrosse team at Blacksburg High School.

She said the young women wanted to support their coach who volunteered in orphanages in Ukraine as the conflict escalates there with Russia.

They wore “Pray for Peace” shirts during warmups.

“Just a general kindness effort of things going on in the community in the world,” Levison said.

Levison said the team got an email informing them they could not wear the shirts anymore, because they could be considered religious or political.

“Thought that the real issue was the pray part,” Levison said.

Levison emailed the district asking if the team could wear the shirts if the text was changed to “Play for Peace.”

“They were told no, because of the political aspect of the statement, I was shocked.”

Lacrosse players Oakley Wheeler and Elise Levison are also shocked.

“It was definitely upsetting and confusing, because all we were trying to do was support our coach and show a positive message, we were all concerned it was a scary time,” Elise Levison said.

WSLS 10 reached out to Montgomery County Public Schools for comment and has not heard back.

“But the play for peace I was kind of surprised, that I even mentioned that would be an acceptable compromise,” Susan Kass, a school board member said.

However, school board members discussed the issue Tuesday.

“The play for peace, that I don’t quite understand, I wouldn’t see why it would be allowed if the student feels they don’t have to wear shirt it’s not mandated they have to wear it.”

During the same meeting, Interim Superintendent Annie Whitaker said it has political meaning.

“About a war. And a war is rooted in what? A war with people from different political views,” Whitaker said.

While the board says the lacrosse team could not wear the shirts, Levison and many others in support hope there is change.

“I feel like we are at a point where everything could be political, I just don’t want to get to a point where we are shutting down every single thing,” Mark Cherbaka, another school board member said.

Some people are hoping the school board changes its view.

“I don’t understand how caring for another person in another country, culture and wishing them peace is a bad thing,” Amanda Poff, a former teacher and parent said.

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