Town backs victim of prank - Word&Way

Town backs victim of prank

A prank directed at an unpopular student gained enough momentum that the unsuspecting young lady was named to her school’s homecoming court. Unfortunately, it was meant not as a compliment but as a demeaning joke.

Whitney Kropp was pleasantly surprised when the results were announced over the school PA system as she sat in geometry class. Her excitement turned to humiliation when the 16-year-old learned she was actually the butt of an orchestrated joke. Other students pointed at her and laughed in the hallways. The sophomore boy chosen alongside her, a football player, decided not to be a part of the court, reportedly because of her.

All of this transpired at the 800-student high school in the farming community of West Branch, Minn. “I thought I wasn’t worthy,” Kropp told a Detroit News reporter. “I was this big old joke.”

To be sure, Kropp is a free spirit, fond of dressing in black and sporting strange hair colors, fashion not popular in the rural community in which she lives and attends school.

Interestingly, the bullies didn’t win this one.

Word got out in the community about what transpired at Ogemaw Heights High, and offers flowed in to Kropp from local businesses, who will buy her dinner, take her photo, fix her hair and nails, and dress her in a stunning homecoming gown, shoes and a tiara.

Supporters will pack the football stadium for the homecoming game on Friday and cheer when Kropp is introduced at halftime. They reportedly will wear orange T-shirts (her favorite color) with messages of support, some of them simply printed “Team Whitney.” Many in her cheering section will be grads who haven’t attended a game in years.

Word also got out on the Internet. Jamie Kline began a Facebook support page that quickly attracted more than 3,500 “likes.” The population of the town is only about 2,100.

Hundreds of people told their own stories of being bullied and maligned while in high school. What had happened to Kropp had struck a chord. The uproar prompted the other sophomore — football player Josh Awrey — to change his mind and remain a class rep.

It is likely that most of the cheers — and probably the loudest — will occur at halftime when the announcer introduces Whitney Kropp, dressed in red and riding around the field in a convertible.

It is a feel-good story with a happy ending — unless a few immature and vengeful high school students don’t learn an important life lesson and choose to continue efforts to shun and embarrass Whitney Kropp and others like her.

Immature and boorish behavior isn’t easily remedied, but one gets the feeling that it will be less tolerated in this little school and the community.

Surely this will be a teachable moment with a long shelf life for tiny West Branch.