Caught in a viral media firestorm over racist Tweets some students sent after their all-white boys’ basketball team won a state playoff game last week, officials at a southeast MIchigan school said Tuesday that “corrective” disciplinary actions are being taken.
Howell Public School District spokesman Tom Gould said “four or five” students were involved sending the derogatory slur-filled Tweets, but wouldn’t disclose the specific action being taken, citing student confidentiality standard, the Detroit Free Press reports.
The Tweets carried has tags such as #HitlerIsMyDad and #kkk, and referenced "white power."
The Tweets, which school officials said were “disrespectful, offensive and inappropriate, were sent after the Howell team beat a predominantly black Grand Blanc team in the regional finals. None of the students involved was a member of the basketball team.
Howell High School Principal Jason Schrock said both of the high schools are “discussing opportunities for our students to keep the relationship between our schools positive.”
Schrock emphasized that it was students who brought the Tweets to school officials’ attention. “When you are a high school student, it takes a certain amount of courage to do that,” he told the Free Press.
Make Dustup a Teachable Moment
Experts like Dana Brooks, a professor and dean of the College of Physical Activity and Sport Scieces at West Virginia University who has published and presented internationally on the topics sports and racism, says Howell school officials should use the racially charged Tweets as a teachable moment, MLive/The Flint Journal reports.
"Sport is just a reflection of the greater society,” Brooks said. “It reflects those conditions in a larger social context."
Normal Abdella, superintendent of the more racially diverse Grand Blanc school district, said in an email to The Flint Journal that it’s “hard to believe that the racial banality expressed through those messages even exists in this day and age.”
Frances Gilcreast, president of the NAACP-Flint branch told the newspaper she wasn’t surprised by the incident.
"How do you separate racism in one particular area?” she said. “It's in every facet of life. You've got bad apples everywhere, and they go to work, they go to the store, they go to school, they play basketball."
School officials have emphasized that the actions of a handful of teenagers aren’t a new chapter in an unflattering history that many in Howell – the home of a grand dragon for the Ku Klux Klan who hosted cross burnings at his ranch before he died in 1992 – would rather forget. A now-closed shop in the region also sold Klan memorabilia.
“Our history is what it is, but we have been working very hard to promote change,” Nicole Matthews-Creech, president of the Livingston Diversity Council, told the Free Press. The group includes community, church and business leaders working to promote racial and cultural understanding.
“We are moving forward,” Matthews-Creech said, “but not everyone moves forward.”