Athletic tensions between two Pittsburgh-area high schools - one largely white, the other predominantly black - have boiled over into accusations of racism that some say is being swept under the rug.
Two students at Brentwood High School are accused of dressing in banana suits at a game and, along with other students, taunting players at Monessen High, according to Monessen parents and a school administrator.
The costumed Brentwood students were thrown out of Friday's game after they ran past the Monessen fan section, “causing agitation and disruption,” Brentwood's district superintendent, Ronald Dufalla, said in a statement Wednesday. A third student “was removed to avoid a potential problem” that Dufalla wouldn't specify.
But Dufalla also said he has reviewed game tapes and talked to school officials, and has “seen no other activity that confirms the allegations made.” The two students in banana suits, he said, have done that at previous games "without incident.''
“The high school students are emulating college students they have seen on television who wear costumes during the collegiate contests,” Dufalla said in email Wednesday to The Associated Press. “No high school team, Monessen or otherwise, or their fans are being singled out. This is just something the students do.”
Parents said they heard slurs from Brentwood students including “monkeys” and “cotton pickers.”
Superintendent Linda Marcolini told The Valley Independent of Monessen for a story Wednesday that she planned to report the conflict to the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports in the region.
“Basically, I feel (Dufalla) sugar-coated the situation,” Marcolini told the Independent. “I'm not happy with that, and I feel like I've not been told the whole story or the truth.”
The AP could not immediately reach Marcolini for comment.
Dufalla released a statement to Pittsburgh TV stations on Tuesday saying the incident was “dealt with when it occurred. I think it was addressed quickly and handled well.”
“District officials and security were present at the basketball game,” it said. “These officials did not hear any racist or similarly derogatory remarks made towards Monessen players or their fans.”
The district officials investigated by speaking to unspecified students and staff members who attended the game between the Monessen Greyhounds and the Brentwood Spartans, Dufalla said. Monessen won the game 59-45.
The athletic association generally tries to mediate “amicable resolutions” between schools when such disputes arise, executive director Tim O'Malley said.
The group will likely try that again here, although it can also censure schools or put them on probation - essentially a warning that they’ll be kicked out of sanctioned competition in the event of more problems.