MTSD Stands Firm on #LetChloeMarch


Isabelle Southard

Chloe Painter waves her flag during the 2018-2019 season

Natalie Sebunia, Contributing Writer

While McDowell’s marching band seniors celebrate their accomplishments during their senior night tonight at Gus Anderson field, one former McDowell High School student will be watching from the sidelines without receiving any recognition.

Chloe Painter, an eighteen-year-old Villa Maria Academy student, planned on marching for McDowell’s Marching Band in the 2019 season as a senior color guard member until, just before the season began, she was told she would not be permitted to march, even though she had been part of the program the two years before.

“School policies regulate District student participation, and the student in question was not enrolled as a student in our District,” said William Hall, Millcreek Township School District superintendent, via an email interview. “… private school students are not entitled to participate in public school district extracurricular activities.”

The policy in question prevents private school students from participating in McDowell activities, as the students choose private schools and are not enrolled in the Millcreek Township School District, nor any Pennsylvania public school district.

Chloe attended McDowell as a sophomore but transferred to Villa her junior year for academic reasons. Although she was aware that Villa did not have a color guard, she was told that she would be allowed to participate in the McDowell color guard her junior year. But right before band camp began in August, she was told she could not participate during her senior year.

“I couldn’t just sit there and let [the school district] take away something that is such a big part of my life,” Painter said.

A petition was soon created by 2019 McDowell graduate and former marching band member Rachel Szablewski. Within a month, the petition had over 2,200 signatures. The general consensus was that the sudden decision change by the district was unfair to Chloe. This attempt to sway the Millcreek Township school board was titled #LetChloeMarch.

Chloe’s father, Everett Painter, also got involved, attending school board meetings and contacting Hall regarding the situation.

Jerry Anderson, the marching band director, also petitioned for Chloe’s right to participate, even saving her a spot within the color guard.

The school board eventually held a vote on Sept. 5 after continued public involvement. With one board member absent, Chloe was deemed ineligible to march in a 5-3 vote. “This effectively ends Chloe’s bid to march this season,” wrote Everett Painter in a Facebook post. “Even if we were able to pursue other means for overturning the decision, it is now too far into the season to reasonably expect her to rejoin the band.”

Despite not being permitted to participate, Chloe still finds opportunities to spend time and have fun with her friends from McDowell. She volunteers with the marching band and attends competitions to cheer on her former bandmates.

“It is important to understand that MTSD’s policies are in place to govern the education, activities and athletics of students enrolled in our district. Our policies are not drafted to accommodate students from private schools,” said Janine McClintic, a school board member who voted yes to supporting Hall’s decision to not allow Chloe to march.

Some students pointed to the fact that Millcreek residents attending Collegiate Academy can participate in McDowell activities; however, Collegiate is a public school whereas Villa Maria Academy is a private school. Under PIAA regulations, any student attending a public, technology or magnet school in a district that does not offer an intercollegiate activity can participate in that activity through their “home” district. Private schools are often under stricter recruitment and transfer regulations.

However, according to the 2019-2020 PIAA Handbook, the sport of marching band is not under PIAA jurisdiction, and therefore, it is up to the school board to regulate most policies for the activity.

Several petitioners suggested allowing Painter to march this season and then specifying the policy the following year, essentially “grandfathering” her into the band. However, McClintic said that the school board did not deem it necessary to amend the policy at this point in time and stood firm on enforcing the regulation.

The district also noted that if they allow Chloe to participate, it opens the door for more outside students to feel that they can do the same. 

“In my opinion, MTSD’s extracurricular activities are for the benefit of our students,” McClintic said. “An MTSD student should not have to compete with private school students who have chosen not to attend McDowell, yet still want to take part in all of the wonderful programs and activities MTSD offers.” 

Chloe said that she feels her case was not fully examined or considered and that the answer from Hall was always going to be, “No.” Hall did state that public opinion did not influence his stance on the issue; however, he did allow the situation to ultimately be decided by a school board vote.

“Although the decision reached was not necessarily what I wanted, I refuse to let that ruin my senior year,” Chloe said. “I plan to attend every game and competition to support my fellow band members. I’m going to keep my head up because I deserve to have a senior year like no other.”