ELGIN, Ill. (CBS) — A Catholic high school in Elgin said Thursday that it has disciplined the students who hurled racist and body-shaming taunts during a girls’ basketball game.
As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, the school is also hoping to use the incident for some good.
The girls’ basketball team at Bishop McNamara Catholic School in Kankakee had traveled 90 miles to St. Edward Central Catholic School in Elgin for the game.
A girl stepped to the free throw line, and whale sounds rang down from the stands. Some in the crowd directed racist chants at another player.
“Every time she touched the ball, there were monkey sounds being made,” Alfred J.J. Hollis, an assistant football coach at Bishop McNamara, told CBS 2’s Jim Williams earlier this week. “Then when our other girl had the ball, there were whale sounds being made. They were body-shaming her.”
Hollis said the Bishop McNamara players were bullied throughout the game, and he said none of the offending students were removed from the gang or otherwise made to stop.
In a statement issued on Thursday, St. Edward Supt. and Principal Brian Tekampe said: “The behavior of some individuals from our school at the St. Edward CCHS and Bishop McNamara girls’ basketball game was completely unacceptable and runs contrary to our belief and values. As a school, as a community, and as a Catholic faith, we condemn racism and discriminatory behavior against all people in any form.”
Tekampe reiterated “our most sincere apologies” to those hurt by the incident.
“We want you to know that we understand the severity of the situation and intend to share with you our steps to ensure that something like this is never repeated,” Tekampe wrote. “We have identified the individuals involved, and they have been disciplined as a result. They acknowledge the inappropriateness of their behavior, as well as the harm they have caused.”
Further, Tekampe added, the incident has provided a teachable moment for reminding students about kindness and sensitivity.
“While instruction on the dignity of all human persons in a staple of our Catholic curriculum we realize this situation calls for immediate enhancement,” he wrote. “Therefore, all of our theology classes have revisited lessons on empathy and sensitivity.”
The school has also invited Deacon Art Miller to the school. Miller heads the Office for Black Catholic Ministries, and he will talk about his experiences growing up on the South Side in the 1940s and 50s, and his training in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolence philosophy. Miller is scheduled to speak at the school on Jan. 24, and the administration and students at Bishop McNamara have been invited for the event, “if they feel it would be beneficial,” Tekampe wrote.
“Together, we believe that our school communities can demonstrate the kind of openness, unity and progress possible – even under the most difficult circumstances – through meaningful atonement and sincere forgiveness,” Tekampe wrote.