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Our view: In hindsight, teacher cash scramble flopped, but raised awareness for what appears to be a problem

Special games held during breaks at sports events often are silly and lighthearted, but one earlier this month in South Dakota pushed the envelope of propriety.

Herald pull quote, 12/22/21
Herald graphic

Special games held during breaks at sports events often are silly and lighthearted, but one earlier this month in South Dakota pushed the envelope of propriety.

It happened during a period break at a United States Hockey League game in Sioux Falls and involved a “dash for cash” by local teachers who scrambled for dollar bills – $5,000 altogether – at mid-ice to raise funds for classroom projects. For a few minutes, 10 teachers crawled on their hands and knees and scooped up the cash as cameras documented the action.

Immediately, it became a national spectacle – one made worse by headlines and commentators.

For example:

● “Outrage as teachers made to scramble for cash in ‘disturbing’ hockey game sideshow” (Indian Express).


● “Teachers scramble for dollar bills in ‘humiliating’ game” (CNN).

● “‘Dash for Cash’ pits crawling teachers against each other to grab money for schools” (Daily Beast).

● The Washington Post reported that critics were calling it dehumanizing, “especially as teachers are paid relatively small salaries in South Dakota and nationwide.”

Some of the headlines suggest the teachers were grabbing the money for themselves, and therefore are misleading. The dollars were for school supplies – not to supplement a teacher’s income, although we have heard that some teachers pay for certain extraneous supplies out of their own pocket.

Importantly, the teachers were not “made” to do it. They were participating in what was intended to be a fun game, albeit one that – in hindsight – does prompt a cringe.

Was the cash-grab more degrading than, say, the event earlier this month at a Grand Forks school that saw two dozen teachers and the local sheriff happily take a pie to the face in support of an effort to raise dollars for Christmas gifts for financially strapped families? At the same event, the principal was duct-taped to the wall and pied in the face.

Credit – and our sincere appreciation – goes to the teachers and others who participate in these events. Yes, they’re a bit degrading, but if they help boost a worthy cause, can’t it still be OK?

Critics say teachers shouldn’t have to grapple for dollars for their classrooms, and we agree with that. They – we all – should not have to resort to tricks and dehumanizing acts to raise money for charity, or to get kids to read, or to raise awareness for diseases or injustice.


But it happens, and it will continue to happen as long as good-spirited people volunteer to do these silly things for the greater good.

So, yes, the event at the hockey game in Sioux Falls was clunky and ill-conceived. But its root – its real intent – was right, and those who organized it don’t deserve the national criticism that’s raining down on them. It was an idea with good intentions, but a flawed delivery.

The organizers instead should have just tested the teachers’ skills at shooting pucks into the net.

If nothing else, the event accomplished something: It raised awareness and showed the nation that well-meaning teachers don’t always have the funds necessary to do some of the projects and fun classroom things that help engage, inspire and thereby better educate our children. Perhaps going forward, there’s more we – our communities – can do to help further the cause.

The hockey cash scramble, the pie-to-the-face event and similar events also show that many teachers are willing to give so much extra effort on behalf of our kids.

To them all, we offer our thanks and appreciation.

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