Racial slurs at high school basketball game prompts change

School leaders say students at Parkrose High School are facing racism. (KATU Photo)

Students from Parkrose High School told KATU on Friday what they think about the racial taunts hurled at their girls basketball team at a game in St. Helens.

And the Parkrose School District superintendent sent out a letter to parents three days after the game citing "... racial gestures and slurs and abusive language."

"That's unacceptable. They're kids," said Bonnie Wolz, a parent of a Parkrose High School student.

"Not a lot of our students were really surprised that that sort of thing happened, but I guess it happens a lot," said Nia Calloway, a student at the high school.

Lew Frederick, an Oregon state senator who represents part of Parkrose, as well North Portland and Northeast Portland, says racism never went away.

"This doesn't put [the girls team] in a fetal position, and they certainly understand that this is the kind of thing that can happen," said Frederick.

Racist events happened enough where the superintendent had to send the following statement:

The Parkrose School District is working with the St. Helen's School District to help repair the harm that has been done to our players. Our greatest concern is the larger issue of hatred and intimidation at athletic events when our students play in other communities. Many of our students of color past and present have shared stories of hateful language and intimidation at athletic events. We expect long term protections through the OSAA to establish a policy that has serious consequences for districts where this occurs.

The Portland branch of the NAACP released a statement demanding "swift action" from the St. Helens School District.

"I think the schools are trying to handle it the best they can," said Frederick.

St. Helens School District didn't respond to KATU's phone calls or e-mails regarding the matter.

In the letter sent to parents, Superintendent Michael Lopes Serrao has asked St. Helens School District to "provide more security, including school resource officers at their athletic events."

However, Frederick is also holding parents and other students accountable.

"We've got to make it clear to the community to folks that this is not acceptable," he said.

Milwaukie High School's girls basketball team did responded. During last week's game against St. Helens, the team wore shirts, displaying the words, "equity, diversity, inclusion" and "Parkrose Strong" to show their support for the Parkrose team.

Even with more security, as Parkrose promised, some parents aren't convinced.

"Kind of scary. I would actually feel uncomfortable, I actually want to go with [my son] now after that. Scary," said Lateshia Wesby, a parent of a Parkrose High School student.

"I don't really feel safe by myself, to be honest, from what I've seen from other schools," said Isaac Rowden, a student at Parkrose High School.

Parkrose girls will face St. Helens again Feb. 12 at home.

It's not just adults stepping up. What kids from other schools are doing to show their support:


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