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Monessen officials want apology for racial slurs at game

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Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012
 

Monessen school officials are unhappy about the way their counterparts in Brentwood handled reports that students used racial slurs at a boys basketball game between the schools.

Parents and administrators are seeking an apology and WPIAL intervention, saying Brentwood students wore banana suits and ran around the court, directing insults at Monessen players on Friday night.

"It's not pleasant," said Linda Marcolini, superintendent of Monessen City School District. "Our kids here at Monessen tolerate a lot. That was very damaging for them."

Marcolini, who did not attend the game in Brentwood, said she spoke with people who described an "extremely racist" environment. The Monessen squad of mostly black and biracial players won the game, 59-45.

"It was almost borderline hate crime," Marcolini said. "... Students were yelling, 'monkeys' and 'cotton pickers.'"

Brentwood Borough School District officials said they are unaware anyone used racial epithets. Their investigation has not concluded, they said, and they intend to review policy covering student and fan conduct at games.

"No such comments were reported to district officials or security during the game. Otherwise, district officials would have taken swift, corrective action," they said in a statement.

WPIAL's executive committee, which typically allows districts to handle crowd conduct at athletic events, will decide on Monday whether to intervene, Executive Director Tim O'Malley said. Monessen officials notified the organization by email on Tuesday, saying the issue was not resolved, he said.

Jeff Healy, 48, of Brentwood described a "chippy, rowdy game." Two students wearing banana costumes left their Brentwood section seats and ran a lap around the court at halftime, Healy said, before officials escorted them out.

Healy heard no racial slurs.

"I would be the first to call them out if I heard that," he said. "There's no place for that in a high school or anywhere."

Monessen head football coach Andy Pacak, who attended, said Brentwood students chanted racist remarks.

"There were a lot of shouts and chants that alluded to monkeys," said Pacak. "From the tone of it, it was obvious what they were trying to say. It was a very uncomfortable situation."

Brentwood parents told the Tribune-Review that students often wear costumes to pump up the team and fans.

Boys have worn the costumes to school events, including basketball games, for several years, said Denise Pilarski, 49, whose son Jason is a junior guard on the Brentwood team.

"I've never thought there was any racial connection to the banana costumes until this," Pilarski said. "It was a very loud, very intense game, but I saw nothing and heard nothing that's warranting what's going on right now."

Officials from the districts talked on Monday and agreed Brentwood would punish the costumed students, Marcolini said. Brentwood officials would not say what punishment they issued.

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