A Clarence Middle School girls lacrosse team will be suspended from competition for four games after an investigation into alleged racial slurs directed at black players on the Sweet Home team during a game last week.
Clarence Superintendent Geoffrey M. Hicks announced the disciplinary action Monday. He said no Clarence player admitted to using a racial slur, and there were conflicting reports about what was said during Thursday's game.
Despite the conflicting testimony, "there's enough here to warrant a reaction on our part," Hicks said.
"We determined there is evidence to believe that the allegations have merit" based on information also gathered from Sweet Home during the probe, he said, adding that the "use of any racial slur is contrary to the values of our district."
Hicks on Monday informed Sweet Home Superintendent Anthony J. Day of the findings of the Clarence district's investigation and the action the district planned to take.
Day declined to comment on Clarence's response, beyond saying he had believed that Hicks and other district officials would thoroughly look into the allegations.
"I trusted that they would do what they thought was appropriate," Day said.
The allegations were raised Friday by three parents of Sweet Home players in emails to Hicks, who had previously served as the Sweet Home superintendent.
The two black players and two biracial players on the Sweet Home team were called the N-word during the game, Jeanmarie Mitchell told The Buffalo News on Monday.
Mitchell wasn't at the game but said her daughter, an eighth-grader on the team who is biracial, was very upset when she told Mitchell about the racial slurs after she came home Thursday.
Mitchell said she believes that the game got a bit aggressive at one point and that the Clarence girls may have been frustrated when they responded with the slurs.
"She told me they looked her right in the face and dropped the N-bomb," Mitchell said. "She was almost in tears. We lived in the city, and we didn't encounter this."
However, a woman who attended the game, Cassie Orffeo, said she didn't hear any racial slurs used during the contest.
Orffeo's younger sister plays on the Clarence team. Orffeo said her sister and several teammates reported after the game that both teams engaged in name-calling.
"My only concern is that I think this is a two-sided argument," said Orffeo, a teacher in another school district, who believes Clarence and Sweet Home both need to respond to what happened during the game.
Hicks said the Clarence team consists of 23 girls. Twenty of them, including the team's one black member, were at Thursday's game at Sweet Home Middle School in Amherst.
During the suspension from competition, the Clarence team will be allowed to continue practicing, Hicks said. The suspension from competition amounts to about two weeks.
The team members, who are seventh- and eighth-graders, will participate in a cultural-awareness program from the National Federation for Just Communities, Hicks said. That program will be scheduled during one of the team's practices during the next two weeks, he said.
Mitchell said she is glad the Clarence district appears to have taken the incident so seriously, and she hopes the team members learn some valuable lessons from the cultural-awareness session.
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