BRADLEY — Some are questioning a local high school’s decision to remove the Lt. Dan character from a parade entry with a “Forrest Gump” theme.
At the Oct. 4 homecoming parade, most of the members of Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School’s cross-country team were dressed as the bearded Forrest Gump. Two of the runners were paired as an earlier version of Forrest and his girlfriend, Jenny.
Shortly before the parade, though, the cross-country coach told the team to exclude the Lt. Dan character, reportedly because he had received a complaint. Lt. Dan is a veteran in a wheelchair.
In an interview, Principal Brian Wright said the parade entry depicted two movie scenes in which the team included Lt. Dan. In the movie, however, Lt. Dan wasn’t a part of those scenes, Wright said.
The principal also noted members of the Best Buddies club were positioned behind the cross-country team in the parade. That group’s mission is to promote friendships between students with disabilities and general education students.
Wright said the school didn’t want the Best Buddies to think students were making fun of them.
“Instead of a story about how we’re being too sensitive, we would be seeing a story about how we’re not being sensitive enough,” the principal said.
The school became aware of Lt. Dan’s inclusion moments before the parade’s start, so employees had to make a quick decision, Wright said. It was the right call, he said.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Wright said.
The cross-country team called its parade entry “Chanting Forrest,” a variation of the parade’s theme, “Enchanted Forest.”
Megan Brooks, a team parent and organizer of the parade entry, said she didn’t see Lt. Dan as offensive, given he is a character in an iconic movie. She said the wheelchair was lent by a cross-country team member’s sister, who has cerebral palsy. The sister was excited her wheelchair would be a part of the parade, Brooks said.
Brooks acknowledged that the decision to include Lt. Dan was later in the planning process.
The parade’s judges rated the cross-country team’s entry the best overall.
Resident Diana Baker also questioned the school’s decision.
“Someone decided they didn’t like it,” Baker said. “Why is the school catering to people like that? Kids have a right to their float. It was based on a character that is well known.”