High school students in Utah are facing disciplinary actions for spewing racist taunts at an opposing team during a basketball game last month.
After completing its investigations, the Weber School District decided to impose sanctions on Roy High School students in the fan section who shouted racial slurs and barked at Asian American and Polynesian players from Hunter High School on Jan. 13.
The year prior, the same student section reportedly taunted Asian American and Polynesian players from Hunter High when the team visited Roy High for their annual basketball match-up. According to witnesses, the spectators called members of the visiting team “dog eaters.”
Some parents of the targeted students told the Salt Lake Tribune that they reported the incident to the school and the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA) but did not receive a response.
The student section did not repeat the slur at last month’s game, opting instead to bark.
Parents provided videos of the incident that showed the barking sounds coming from the Roy High side of the gym, where about 50 students were sitting. Each time an Asian American or Polynesian player on Hunter’s team had possession of the ball, the barking would get louder.
In addition to the barking, the Roy High students could be heard shouting other offensive comments, such as “go home and eat more rice.”
The district’s investigation found that the barking students exhibited unsportsmanlike conduct.
As a result, the Roy High students involved in the taunts will reportedly receive instruction on appropriate cheering at games and will be required to “participate in restorative measures.”
For the next two home games, the spectators will be required to sit in the upper section of the stands instead of courtside. The students will not be allowed to “taunt or make any type of animal noise or any other cheer/chant that is meant to bait, anger, embarrass, ridicule or demean others.” Any student found violating this in succeeding games will be removed from the gymnasium.
In response to the ruling, Roy High apologized to Hunter High and other communities impacted by the actions.
According to Roy High Principal Michael Martini, the school will implement measures to prevent similar incidents in the future, such as placing more staff trained “to better recognize and address discriminatory conduct” at games to monitor the student section.
“As a school, we recognize and acknowledge our behavior has been harmful to others,” Martini wrote in a letter. “We sincerely apologize to Hunter High and any other communities that have been impacted by these actions. … It is the expectation of students and spectators to abide by all sportsmanship policies.”
Meanwhile, a statement signed by 17 Asian and Pacific Islander community organizations in Utah condemned the racist comments and called for stronger action to address the incident.
The coalition urged Governor Spencer Cox, UHSAA and Utah school districts to “create long-term solutions” to make the state safer for Asian and Pacific Islander families. Parents of Hunter High students are also now calling for a clearer process for handling complaints of racism or bias in high school games.