Two separate investigations are underway after allegations that a Molalla student donned blackface and other fans made racist taunts during a home basketball game against league rival Gladstone on Friday.
The two probes, one led by both school districts and the Oregon School Activities Association and a second by the Molalla Police Department, are investigating claims by Gladstone players that a White Molalla student painted his face and upper body black after arriving at the game, that other Molalla fans made monkey noises while Gladstone’s Black players had the ball or were shooting free throws, and that a woman displayed a picture of a Confederate flag on her phone as the visiting team entered the gymnasium.
According to The Oregonian and other media outlets, several Gladstone students described the alleged racist behavior, including a sophomore who described a confrontation with the student reportedly wearing blackface.
The Oregonian said in its report that it had obtained photos and video of the incident and confirmed the Molalla student — who is White — covered his entire face, neck and arms with black paint. The paper did not share the photos or video.
Molalla Superintendent Tony Mann and Gladstone Super Bob Stewart, along with OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that called the allegations “deeply troubling” and said a joint investigation is underway to determine what happened and what should be done to address it.
“This investigation’s success requires that we acknowledge the need for deep conversation, in-depth fact finding and a thorough understanding about what occurred,” the statement read. “We will engage people at every level, from district administrators to coaches to students. To that end, we will be working with an independent investigator, and we will take appropriate action upon the investigation’s completion.”
The officials said their districts and the OSAA will continue to “communicate, listen, resolve, and move forward together” and asked for patience as the investigation moves forward.
“Collectively, we believe that every student, coach, and community member who visits another district should have and promote a respectful, enjoyable, educational, and safe experience — whether at an athletic event or for any other purpose,” the statement said. “This is part of creating an environment in our schools that is welcoming and free from bullying, racial slurs, harassment, and other forms of bias.
“The messages we send through our words and actions convey who we are. We must never stop evaluating and improving how we treat each other in this world, and we have zero tolerance for racial discrimination and intimidation in our schools. This is a challenging moment for all of us, and it is imperative we use it as an opportunity to improve understanding, demonstrate care and deepen our connections within, and between, our communities.”
Mann, the Molalla superintendent, responded to the incident in a separate letter to the community on Sunday, acknowledging the blackface incident and said the other allegations involving “posturing and language.”
“This is not Molalla,” Mann wrote. “This is not who we are. I want to emphasize not all of the facts are known about student behavior yet, however, I want to share several important things at this time: In the Molalla River School District, we take such matters very seriously. We began an investigation on Saturday morning to determine all facts associated with these events.
“Discriminatory behavior on the basis of race or skin color will not be tolerated. Behavior that marginalizes or intimidates others is never going to be accepted. Upon completion of our investigation, action will be taken in alignment with School Board Policy and the law. Each and every student belongs and deserves to feel safe in Molalla!”
Help us build a sustainable news organization to serve Canby for generations to come! Let us know if you can support our efforts to expand our operations and keep all of our content paywall-free. #SwimWithTheCurrent!