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New Palestine student disciplined for racist ‘monkey’ slurs toward Pike volleyball team

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A New Palestine high schooler has been disciplined after making racial slurs toward the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township’s volleyball players last week.

Multiple parents furiously took to social media after the volleyball game on Oct. 8 to address the racist behavior of the New Palestine student athlete, who called the opponents “monkeys” and beat on her chest.

In a Facebook post, Pike High school mother Sabrina Rogers Dryden said she’s proud of the way the Pike volleyball players handled the situation.

“The feelings of anger and hurt are real for them, but they played with professionalism and dignity,” Dryden wrote. “And for that I am so very proud of them. It is disheartening that we have to have this discussion with our girls still in this day and age.”

On the northwest side of Indianapolis, Pike High School had over 3,300 students last academic year — about 59% were Black and 8% were White. New Palestine High School served over 1,100 students — almost 93% were White and fewer than 1% were Black.

According to staff at the Southern Hancock County Community School Corporation — which oversees New Palestine High School — a complaint about the incident was filed with Pike Township, then forwarded to New Palestine’s athletic director. Both districts have worked together to address the issue. Pike Township has also filed an official complaint with the Indiana High School Athletic Association and requested they provide anti-racism training and counseling for all student athletes.

“MSD of Pike Township wholeheartedly believes it is essential for athletics and all other school sponsored activities to be safe spaces for all students,” Pike staff said in a statement to WFYI.

A staff member with the Southern Hancock County Community Schools district said fall break prolonged its investigation into the incident. But they released a press release stating they reviewed film of the volleyball game and spoke to coaches, players, parents, community members and Pike administrators who attended the event.

New Palestine High Schools Principal Jim Voelz and Athletic Director Al Cooper said the student-athlete didn’t represent New Palestine’s commitment to “character and class.”

“Unfortunately, we fell short of this goal this weekend,” the press release stated. “As an athletic department and school administration, we see this as a teachable moment. Actions and words matter. We thank our community for its support and look forward to a great rest of the season.”

Southern Hancock County Community Schools said it disciplined the student in accordance with the school’s athletic code of conduct. The district would not specifically state what disciplinary actions would be taken to preserve the student’s privacy.

In an emailed statement, IHSAA Commissioner Paul Neidig said he believes New Palestine has taken the right disciplinary actions, and that educators must use this as a teachable moment.

“It is never appropriate to make fun of, taunt, threaten, or belittle anyone over race, religion, nationality, or any other difference,” said Neidig. “Instead, those differences are to be respected, celebrated, and championed. We look forward to the day when we do not have to have this type of conversation. Until that day, however, we must continue to educate the young people we serve.”

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

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