Communities respond to racial slurs at basketball game in Jamestown
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Some Bismarck High School basketball players were targeted with taunting and racial slurs at a basketball game in Jamestown against Jamestown High School on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
Andre Austin’s mom, Savannah, was listening to his game in her car as she was driving home from her younger son’s basketball game in Dickinson when she heard the racial slurs coming from the Jamestown cheering section.
She says she immediately called their dad who was at the game to confirm what she was hearing. She says the incident was reported to an administrator at Jamestown High School, but no action was taken.
“They had every opportunity to act right then and there to protect those boys, but they didn’t. So, for the entirety of the game, those boys were harassed, they were mocked, and it was humiliating. That hurt is for... everlasting with my son, and that’s where I find huge fault for Jamestown High School,” said Savannah Jade Alkire.
Savannah says this may be a learning opportunity for the students from Jamestown using racial slurs, but said she is seeking policy change and to hold the administration accountable for what she says was a lack of action on Tuesday night.
Another parent of one of the players who was targeted says it’s time for action. While he understands kids will make mistakes and can learn from them, he wants answers from the North Dakota High Schools Activity Association and Jamestown High School on how things will change to create a safer environment for all student-athletes.
“We’re not going away; we’re not going to be quiet. You know, if nothing’s done then it’s going to get to the next level and we’re prepared for that as parents, as families. I think we have enough support and enough people, and high-ups around the country that we can make some serious noise, if need be,” said Lance Eaglestaff.
Bismarck High School’s Director of Student Activities Dave Zittleman says sometimes competition and emotion can overwhelm what is really trying to be accomplished during educationally based activities, but parents are able to set an example.
“So, I think that parents play a big role in that, and they can educate their student-athlete on that and everybody has to come together to develop a culture of positivity at athletic events,” said Zittleman.
Bismarck Public Schools Cultural Coordinator says using resources and having conversations at home can advance cultural sensitivity and understanding.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to look at the North Dakota Native American Essential Understandings website which is the teaching of our elders. They have different resources on there that we can pull from elder interviews to additional resources to provide that opportunity to see into the lives of others,” said Sashay Schettler, the Indigenous Education Director at Bismarck Public Schools.
Schettler says the school immediately jumped into action to support the athletes affected and the wider student population who also may have been impacted.
Eaglestaff says he wants a zero-tolerance policy for racism, and representation on the board from the North Dakota High School Activities Association. He says he’s received calls of support from many coaches from other schools around the state. Both schools have issued statements in response to the incident at Jamestown High School.
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