The superintendent of a Chester County school says a baby doll hanging in a locker room appears to have been a “foolish prank” rather than racial intimidation.
An NBC10 viewer sent a photo of a doll hanging from the ceiling in a locker room at Coatesville Area High School. While many initially believed the doll was an African American girl, the doll appears to be the Polynesian character "Moana" from the 2016 Disney computer-animated film of the same name.
After pictures of the doll surfaced on social media, Dr. Cathy Taschner, the Superintendent of the Coatesville Area School District, responded to speculation that the incident was a hate crime.
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“After our administrators interviewed team members, both white and black, it appears that the students said this was a foolish prank and the intent was not to cause racial intimidation," Dr. Taschner wrote to parents, staff and community members Tuesday.
According to Taschner, members of the Coatesville cross country team found the doll in a trash can during a meet back on Sept. 1 and began playing with it. After their coach took the doll and tossed it in the trash, members of the team stuffed it into an open ceiling tile in the locker room.
“It was there for several weeks until a team member decided to use his tie to hang it down from the ceiling, where it was recently discovered, smeared with toothpaste,” Dr. Taschner wrote.
Taschner said they were first concerned that it was an intentional hate crime. After interviewing the team members, made up of both white and African American students, they determined it was a prank gone wrong. Despite this, Taschner said administrators will still meet with team members and their parents to discuss the incident and possible disciplinary action.
“Regardless, this is foolish and offensive, and not the kind of behavior we expect or accept from our students,” she wrote.
In her letter, Taschner also highlighted the work the school district has done with various groups in creating a safe and inclusive environment.
“We very much regret any upset and concern this incident has caused our students, staff, parents, or community members,” she wrote. “We will use this incident as a reminder that our actions really do matter, and that we expect our Coatesville Area School District students to act with integrity at all times.”