Camas High School students have been accused of hurling racial slurs toward members of a visiting athletic team for the second time this school year.
In a letter sent to Camas School District families on Thursday, April 21, Camas Athletic Director Rory Oster said Thursday’s junior varsity and varsity baseball games between Camas High and the Vancouver-based Skyview High School had been postponed following a report that Camas High “athletes on the field used racial slurs during a baseball game against Skyview” earlier this week.
“We take these reports seriously and are currently working with Vancouver Public Schools to determine precisely what happened during the game,” Oster stated.
“All students deserve to feel respected and supported, including students visiting our campus. Harassment, intimidation and bullying, including racial slurs, are not tolerated in our school community,” Oster added. “We will work to make sure that we get to the bottom of this, including assigning discipline as appropriate. Our goal is to make sure that learning happens for our students and that repair and restoration are made to those harmed.”
Skyview’s principal, Andy Meyer, also sent a note to Skyview families on April 21. He said members of the Skyview baseball team reported one of their players had been the target of “racist comments, noises and names” during a junior varsity game at Camas High School on Wednesday, April 20.
“The incident has been shared with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association for review and is currently being investigated,” Meyer told Skyview families, adding that staff from the Vancouver and Camas school districts are working together to investigate the incident.
“Creating safe and supportive learning environments is a priority for our school that extends beyond the classroom to athletics and activities,” Meyer stated in the letter to Skyview families.. “We expect that all members of the Skyview and (Vancouver Public Schools) community will treat others with respect. That expectation extends to visitors and competitors from other districts as well. When that expectation is not met, it is important that we work to restore the supportive environment of our schools.”
Skyview coach responds, calls for more accountability
On Sunday, April 24, Skyview baseball coach Seth Johnson commented about the incident and the follow-up investigation on social media.
“I think it is important for me to take a stance, because I sincerely believe deep in the core of my being that this is the right thing to do,” Johnson wrote on his Twitter feed Sunday afternoon. “My statement is my personal view about what I believe is right and is outside the purview of the Vancouver Public School’s statement three days ago.”
“I feel there needs to be direct accountability for the actions of the individuals involved in the incident,” Johnson stated. “Over the past few days with my interactions with Camas, at times I have not felt comfortable with where the investigation is heading.”
Johnson said he has heard people on the Camas side of the discussions making excuses for the alleged racial slurs, saying the words Skyview players heard “only rhymed with the ‘N-word,'” that “the ‘Ape’ sounds coming from their dugout throughout the game were instead ‘Seal’ noises” and that Skyview players had overheard a conversation about who was the most racist player on the team.
“Over the past year and a half, Vancouver Public Schools has provided equity and diversity training,” Johnson stated. “In these training sessions I have learned a great deal of valuable information that I will use for the rest of my life. Situational awareness and the impact of (people’s) languages and actions are at the cornerstone of some of these sessions. Analyzing the incident at hand, I feel the individuals involved in this incident lacked situational awareness and empathy. Specifically, with the impact of those individuals’ words and actions concerning a (Black) player on our team and (Black) people in general.”
Johnson stated that he feels there has been “little accountability” for the Camas players involved in the incident and that the Camas baseball coaching staff, Camas High School athletic department and Camas High School staff are responsible for ensuring this accountability takes place.
“I want to reiterate how important I believe this topic to be,” Johnson stated. “As a teacher, coach and father, it is imperative that I stand up for what is right. All students and athletes deserve to be treated equally and with nothing but support and respect.”
Camas students accused of hurling racial slurs toward Portland student-athletes in December 2021
This is the second time this school year members of a visiting athletic team have accused Camas students of hurling racial slurs toward visiting student-athletes.
In December 2021, members of Portland’s Benson High School girls basketball team and their coach accused Camas students of directing racial slurs toward the visiting basketball players.
The investigation began in mid-December, after Eric Knox, coach of the Benson High School girls basketball team and the founder and executive director of the Portland nonprofit HOLLA, lodged an official complaint with the Camas School District, alleging that students seated in the Camas High School student section had directed racial slurs, including the “N-word” toward his Benson players.
“During the (junior varsity) game, my varsity players, who sat next to the Camas student section, expressed to me that the student section had hurled racial slurs to and about my Benson players, specifically the ‘N-word,'” Knox wrote in his complaint. “I assured them that I had their back and that, unfortunately, racism is a fact and reality for us, and that they will have to navigate this the rest of their lives.”
Knox said his players continued to hear racial slurs coming from students in the Camas section throughout the Dec. 10, 2021, game at Camas High School.
“Additionally, Benson parents came to me and said they heard people in the Camas student section using very derogatory language about our players and felt it created a very hostile environment,” Knox wrote in his complaint. “By the second half, I had heard the same thing from enough players that I finally had to take action, so I walked right on to the court at the next dead ball, toward the student section, saying, “We are not going to do this anymore.” The referees intercepted me, and I alerted them to what I had been hearing from my players and that I would not tolerate the blatant racist language directed toward our girls, and if the referees did not get it under control, we would not finish the game.”
An independent investigator from Educational Service District 112 concluded in January 2022 that the Camas High students had likely directed “some sort of inappropriate language” toward the Benson basketball players, but added it was “not possible to reach a definitive conclusion that (Camas students used) racial slurs.”
In a letter sent to the Camas school community, Camas School District Interim Superintendent Doug Hood noted that the independent ESD 112 investigator had stated in their report on the Benson allegations that “several students alluded to occasionally hearing racial slurs (and) comments among students around the (Camas High School) campus.”
“Each and every person deserves the right to exist, learn and thrive in our community,” Hood said in January. “We will continue to support our students in discussion and learning from what they are seeing and experiencing.”
The Camas School District established a set of “next steps,” including having continued conversations with Benson players, coaches and administrators, as well as Camas students of color “desiring restorative connection and support;” educating staff and student leaders in creating anti-racist and anti-biased environments; updating protocols for administrators, athletic staff and students; and creating partnerships with NAACP chapters in Portland and Vancouver, student groups such as the Black Student Union, equity leaders in neighboring school districts and a restorative justice facilitator.
“The findings from the investigation further highlight the importance of our district’s commitment to seeing and serving each student, including those who visit from outside Camas,” the Camas School Board said in a joint statement released on Jan. 25, following the ESD 112 investigation’s conclusions. “While the investigation did not identify individuals responsible, the conclusion that something likely happened reinforces the need to emphasize sportsmanship, decorum, and respect for all within our schools. We reiterate that racism, bullying, and harassment of any kind or scope are not tolerated in our schools.”
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