Three students at Mahopac High School have been suspended for allegedly making racial taunts at the Mount Vernon basketball team.
According to Mount Vernon players, the racism allegedly started on the court after they beat Mahopac in a playoff game. The slurs then continued online via Twitter.
Some of the tweets from the students, who's last names have been withheld, were as follows:
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Michael: "One of the very few biological Mount Vernon fathers just tried to sell me crack outside the County Center.”
Ryan: "That's why you shouldn't let monkeys out of their cages #mountvernonzoo."
Mike: "Tough loss boys, but at least we can talk to our dads about."
The Mount Vernon School District says it is not taking the situation lightly. It has contacted the state Education Department and the governor's office about the incident.
Interim School Superintendent Judith Johnson says she was surprised and disappointed when she learned about the alleged slurs. "What we can't do is ignore the fact that this happened," she says. "Our students need to understand their rights were violated and the Mahopac School District needs to understand this is a country that needs to be tolerant."
Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie says racism can't go unchecked. "We as a community, all people of good will, must stand together and say we must not tolerate the bestiality of racism." Students at Mount Vernon High School tell News 12 the tweets were unacceptable. "That's pretty foul that people would talk about other people just because we had won the basketball game and everything. It's kind of immature to do that," says Mount Vernon student Dazohn Hinson.
Mahopac School Superintendent Thomas Manko emphasized the suspended students were not players and that they were punished as soon as he learned about the tweets. "We've got some folks who make some bad decisions. We admit it, we own it and we're going to do something about it," he says. "They have been suspended from school. They'll lose privileges for participating in activities for a long time to come." The superintendent added that the suspended students will undergo sensitivity training when they return to school, which he hopes will ensure something like this never happens again.
Manko says he is investigating whether any player on the Mahopac team used racist language toward Mount Vernon basketball players as the teams shook hands after their highly contentious game and whether there were scuffles in the stands. Manko insists more suspensions could be coming.
Manko has offered apologies to Mount Vernon officials, and he says he hopes both districts can turn the incident into a teaching opportunity for their communities.