Officials confront scourge of racist behavior at Vt. high school sports events

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:22 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Recent bad behavior by fans at school sporting events has spurred at least one Vermont school to ban spectators altogether. The alleged racial slur at a BFA-Fairfax basketball game last week is the latest of dozens of incidents reported over the past year.

The Vermont Principals’ Association, which oversees high school sports, says they’ve received around 50 complaints since instituting a reporting system during the fall of 2021. In most cases, the incidents are handled by individual schools, though some result in third-party investigations.

“There are more reports and we encourage students to make these reports. What we’ve seen is school administrators and athletic directors and coaches are addressing these things appropriately, taking appropriate action and we are glad to hear that,” said VPA’s Jay Nichols. He says reports of racist and sexist language directed at student-athletes have spanned across other sports including football, volleyball, soccer, and basketball.

The most recent incident at BFA-Fairfax resulted in the school banning fans from attending upcoming home games. An off-the-court incident involving a CVU girl’s basketball player has also impacted the winter sports schedule. After the player posted a racially insensitive video on TikTok, several schools postponed, canceled, or forfeited games.

Nichols says that the CVU administration has doled out consequences to the student and he hopes other schools will avoid forfeits. “People are going to make mistakes. And when they do, we need to shine a bright light on it. We need to take whatever steps are necessary. But the goal in all of this is for the behavior not to occur again. It can’t be to ruin the reputation of a team or a school or a kid. It needs to be, let’s take the action to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and then let’s move on from there,” Nichols said.

He says the schools are focusing on education about harmful speech and moving forward when these occur. The majority of reports of improper language during games have come from spectators and Nichols asks those fans to police the people they are around. “We’re not tolerating this stuff and people need to realize that -- especially from parents and spectators that don’t have the right to be at the game. They have the privilege of being at the game. When kids make a mistake, we educate them. They might have a consequence -- they get educated -- and then we need to move on and that’s where we’re at right now with a couple of these events,” Nichols said.

The VPA says that thanks to the reporting form on their website, at least one coach has lost a position and some students have lost positions on their teams. More importantly, he says spectators have been removed from events and even banned for the year.

CVU officials and principals at several opposing schools did not respond to a request for comment on the racially insensitive video on TikTok.

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