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Clarence parents want suspension reconsidered

Parents of the embattled -- and currently suspended -- Clarence Middle School lacrosse team want Superintendent Geoffrey M. Hicks to reconsider his four-game suspension of the team and set the facts straight about allegations of the use of racial slurs during a recent game.

The parents met Tuesday afternoon at Clarence Middle School with Hicks, the school district's athletic director and middle school principal to discuss what happened during Clarence's 18-4 pasting of Sweet Home on Thursday.

Parents believe Hicks -- and the media -- rushed to judgment without hearing all of the facts in the issue that exploded last weekend after three parents of Sweet Home players emailed Hicks on Friday complaining that some Clarence girls used "the N-word" toward their team.

"It's useless for me to tell you we are innocent," said one Clarence parent who requested anonymity but said Hicks admitted Tuesday that he "rushed to judgment" on the issue. The parent demanded he clear the air. "It needs to come from [Hicks]. He allowed us to look guilty."

Hicks, who didn't meet with reporters after Tuesday's meeting, also did not return several telephone calls to his home and office late Tuesday. The parent said Hicks assured those at the meeting he would issue a statement on behalf of the school sometime today.

"Our reputation is tarnished, and we are sad," the parent said.

The media were denied entrance to Tuesday's meeting. Clarence Middle School Assistant Principal Robert Michel guarded the door to the session and asked the media to leave school grounds.

Parents allege Hicks -- who was the superintendent at Sweet Home until 2010 -- failed to get Clarence's side of the story and "rushed to judgment" before imposing his suspension.

Accounts voiced Tuesday by Clarence parents and an eighth-grade lacrosse player paint a dramatically different version of the on-field events during the game.

They say that the incident was, in fact, provoked by Sweet Home lacrosse players who began with racially charged language of their own after the score became lopsided.

Attempts to reach Sweet Home officials late Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Some of the alleged insults included "rich white bitches," "white trash" and "white bimbos," according to parents. That led to some to return insults toward Sweet Home players. However, Clarence parents insist the "N-word" was not part of that repartee.

Then, at the end of the game, a Sweet Home girl used her lacrosse stick to swat a Clarence player, which caused a physical altercation between both teams.

Emiah Williams, an eighth-grade student who plays for Clarence, confirmed that "things were said" on the field between both teams during the recent game but didn't elaborate on the exact verbiage.

"There was some things said," according to Emiah. "It's a competitive game, and when one team is ahead by a lot, people get upset.

"I'm very upset," Emiah said. "That's one-third of our season that we're losing."

Her father, Eric Williams, who was at Tuesday's meeting, said the incident should be a teachable moment for everyone, including school administrators, parents, students and the media, which he accuses of "blowing it out of proportion."

Williams said Clarence administrators only listened to the side of Sweet Home parents when imposing the suspension and believes that if both sides were heard, both sides would deserve some sanctions. Even so, according to Williams, the brouhaha should have never escalated.

"The referees should have stepped in and done their job [immediately at the game]," said Williams, who is African-American and said Clarence has welcomed his family "with open arms."

"My daughters have never had a problem, I have never had a problem, my sons have never had a problem," said Williams.

Another mother, who is white and has biracial sons who attend Clarence Middle School, turned around on Greiner Road after Tuesday's meeting to tell a reporter her family hasn't been as fortunate.

The woman, who declined to give her name for fear of reprisals, said her sons have been subject to ridicule because of their race at the middle school in Clarence.

"There are issues," she said, explaining that last week her sons were called the N-word while at school. "There are racial issues at this school," she said.

Included in the current four-game suspension, racial sensitivity training will be given to at least the lacrosse team. Whether the school at large will undergo that session remained unclear late Tuesday.