Two Kansas high schools are investigating after students at one school reportedly yelled racist and offensive taunts at the other school's basketball team.
Topeka High School's team was subjected to “racial slurs, threats and disgusting taunts,” during a game on Saturday with Valley Center High School, Coach Geo Lyons said in a Change.org petition. He also said Valley Center students used a Black baby doll to taunt his team during the game.
Lyons has started a petition asking that Valley Center High School fans be removed from sporting events.
Lyons did not return a message from The Associated Press on Tuesday. But he told KSN-TV that his son was shooting a free throw when the Valley Center student section chanted an expletive. He also alleged that racial epithets were used and his team was told they were going to be hanged.
"I had a down locker room, I’m talking about tears were flowing in that locker room,” Lyons said.
Valley Center officials issued an apology Monday to Topeka High School for “inappropriate language and behavior” by students during the game.
The district said in a statement that Topeka and Valley Center officials spent much of the weekend studying videos and interviewing people in attendance. As of Tuesday, the officials had not found evidence of specifically racist taunts but Valley Center acknowledged that students acted inappropriately.
It said students who chanted the expletive at the Topeka student were immediately removed and Valley Center officials worked to prevent any other negative interactions when the game ended.
The Black baby doll was part of a class assignment that requires students to “parent” the baby for a few days, the district said. It was not brought to the game intentionally to taunt Topeka High School but “without context, seeing the baby and images of the ‘baby’ caused hurt and concern to many, and for that we are very sorry,” the statement said.
Valley Center Superintendent Cory Gibson had a “fruitful” conversation about the incident with representatives of the NAACP on Tuesday, spokeswoman Amy Pavlacka said. Gibson and Valley Center High School Principal Bruce Lolling also visited with patrons from both cities to discuss the situation.
“As a district, we sent a letter to all VCHS families and students explaining there would be follow-up consequences for those students involved, and that we, as a community, should learn and grow from this experience,” the statement said.
Topeka schools Superintendent Tiffany Anderson said in a letter to district patrons that the incident has been reported to the Kansas State High School Activities Association.
She said the Topeka district appreciated Valley Center's apology but they hope the district will take appropriate steps to address what occurred with those involved.
“I am so grateful for our coaches, principal (Rebecca) Morrisey and the mighty Trojans at Topeka High who modeled the conduct we expect from our students and we hope that it sets the example of what excellence looks like for others to learn from moving forward,” Anderson wrote.