Education

Oregon School Activities Association confronts racist incidents at high school sporting events, says ‘education’ will be focus

By Rob Manning (OPB)
May 4, 2022 11:41 p.m.

Clatskanie and Molalla high schools are on probation after allegations of racist behavior at basketball games.

Reports of racist behavior at separate basketball games this winter led the state’s interscholastic activity authority to investigate and put on probation two Oregon high schools.

Clatskanie High School is facing sanctions based on racist and abusive language allegedly directed at the De La Salle North Catholic girls basketball team at a contest last December. Investigators concluded that it was “more likely than not” that Clatskanie players made racist comments toward players from the catholic Portland high school.

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In a separate incident in late January, fans at a game at Molalla High School allegedly wore blackface and taunted fans of the visiting Gladstone team, including an adult who showed an image of a confederate flag from their phone. According to Pamplin Media, an investigation into fan behavior at the game concluded that the school violated sportsmanship and crowd control rules.

The Oregon School Activities Association - the statewide regulator of interscholastic sports in the state - hired a third-party investigator to look into the incidents and put both schools on probation. The schools can still compete while on probation, but another infraction could lead to more serious consequences such as suspension from competitions.

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Molalla is facing several penalties in addition to a yearlong probation which began at the end of March - including mandatory training for staff and event management on incident response procedures. The OSAA also put Clatskanie on probation for a year, starting in mid-February. For both schools, the athletic association’s sanctions require the schools to take steps to ensure future incidents won’t occur.

In an interview on OPB’s Think Out Loud, OSAA executive director Peter Weber said the organization is focusing on educating young people and school communities - including schools that were put on probation, such as Clatskanie and Molalla.

“There’s education and training steps that go with that - whether that’s with a team, with event management staff, with administrators, coaches, trying to again, make sure that we’re focused on education, preventing that reoccurrence so that we can provide that environment that we’re all looking for in an interscholastic activity,” Weber said.

Among the mandated steps is training for students and staff on racial equity and implicit bias, which Weber said can be done by using course materials available on the OSAA website. Weber said if problems continue, or get worse, there are more serious penalties.

“Penalties certainly include … probation, there could be appearances before our executive board, required plans of action, even things such as forfeitures or fines, lack of institutional control, all the way up to suspension of membership for the school, or even expulsion from the association,” Weber said.

These aren’t the only publicized allegations of racist behavior at school competitions in recent months. Games in La Grande and Camas, Washington, have also drawn complaints of racist behavior that interscholastic authorities have needed to investigate. Weber said he wasn’t sure that such incidents were happening more frequently, or if they are drawing more attention.

“We’re not naïve to think these incidents have never taken place in the past, and may take place in the future, and it’s up to us to do our best to prevent those things and certainly address them when they occur,” Weber said. “We are hearing more about them, which allows us to address those.”

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