An independent investigation was unable to substantiate claims that a New Prague High School crowd directed racist chants toward the Cooper High School girls basketball team.
New Prague Area Schools sent a message to district families and staff Monday morning, saying the outside investigation into the alleged racist incidents from Feb. 15 is now complete. After that night's contest, a Cooper coach said adult and student New Prague supporters "started to make loud MONKEY NOISES" directed at the Cooper student-athletes, many of whom are Black.
New Prague enlisted the help of an outside firm to investigate the incidents. Namely:
- That adult and student fans made loud monkey noises, both during and after the game, toward the Cooper team.
- That a New Prague fan yelled out “monkey” while an opposing player was at the free throw line.
The investigators, according to New Prague Area Schools, spoke to "approximately" 20 people at the game, including students, parents and employees of the district. None reported hearing monkey noises, according to Monday's update. Investigators spoke with one person from the Robbinsdale School District.
The bottom line: The investigation couldn't substantiate the allegations, the district said.
Robbinsdale Cooper Varsity Girls Basketball Coach Raheem Simmons told Bring Me The News he is referring comment to the district. Robbinsdale Area Schools provided Bring Me The News the message it sent to families and staff in response to New Prague's findings, saying it is "disappointed, but not surprised" to learn the outcome of the investigation.
The message continued:
"As we shared with the community Feb. 23, we believe our Cooper student-athletes and coaches. We believe the first-person statements they made about the incident, and we believe the team did experience racist taunts and jeers from the New Prague crowd.
We shared with New Prague officials what happened during this game. We also refused to subject our student athletes and additional staff members to questioning by their investigators – a process that would have forced students and staff to relive their traumatic experience.
In addition, Robbinsdale schools will continue to not compete against New Prague in any athletic events "for the foreseeable future."
What the investigation determined
Regarding the monkey noises, the firm said a "repeated, low-pitched noise" can be heard for about 10 seconds in a video recording of the game. But it was unclear whether the sound is monkey noises or something else.
The firm also couldn't determine who was responsible for that noise, with the district noting it "appears to be made by only one individual."
As for a fan yelling out "monkey," the investigation said this was misheard. The person was allegedly yelling "Nike," according to the district's statement, which is the name of the play the New Prague coach told the team to run after the free throw.
"The findings of this investigation neither negate the lived experiences of Robbinsdale-Cooper student-athletes and staff, nor does it absolve New Prague Area Schools of its responsibility to create a culture that does not tolerate inappropriate behavior," New Prague Superintendent Tim Dittberner Monday. "We regret any harm caused to Robbinsdale-Cooper students, families, and communities."
Dittberner, referencing other recent incidents involving racist remarks or signs, also said these specific findings "do not take away from the other incidents that have happened at the high school," incidents that include other visiting players being called monkeys during games.
He continued: "Derogatory comments, including racial slurs, and racist conduct are unacceptable and will not be tolerated."