Administrators at McKinleyville High School have suspended the boys’ varsity football team from playing in the annual homecoming game and participating in the homecoming parade in response to offensive messages written on the whiteboard in the team’s locker room.
Early last week, a few members of the team wrote the offending messages, which included a racial slur and a homophobic slur, according to McKinleyville High School Principal Nic Collart. (Disclosure: Collart is a friend of this reporter.) A photo of the whiteboard messages was then shared with fellow students on social media.
In a phone conversation earlier today, Collart said the players involved did not intend for the messages to be shared outside of their social circle, but after the image went public the whole team volunteered to take responsibility.
“I just want to say how great the players have been, even though not all of them were involved,” Collart said.
The photo of the whiteboard messages surfaced on social media Tuesday. That evening Collart sent an email to students, staff and parents saying, “Earlier this week some members of our varsity football team made a poor decision which in effect was damaging to students, staff and our community.” Later in the week he sent a recording of the same message through the school’s automated phone system. (Read Collart’s full statement below.)
Collart told the Outpost that the whole student body has shown a desire to address the issue head-on and learn from it. “We have to be accountable,” he said. “We’re working together to be better.”
In response to media requests for comment, Collart wrote an additional statement, which follows this message to the McKinleyville High community:
To all of our McKinleyville High School Parents and the McKinleyville Community.
As McKinleyville High School heads into our Homecoming Week, I continue to be thankful to be part of our community and part of our MHS family.
Earlier this week some members of our varsity football team made a poor decision which in effect was damaging to students, staff and our community; it negatively impacted the perception of McKinleyville High School. As a result our varsity football team will not take the field next Friday for Homecoming nor participate in our parade. Mack High will never condone nor allow statements or actions that alienate or harm any group or sub group of our diverse community.
However, when something negative happens it also presents an opportunity to grow and be better than we were before, to help us continue to be a school to be proud of. And there is lots to be proud of:
I am proud of the students who came forward to let us know what had happened and asked that it be addressed.
I am proud of our football players, who have come together and accepted responsibility as a team and who are all working hard to make this right.
I am proud of the students with whom I have spoken who want to forgive and help us all be a stronger community.
I am proud of our staff who have supported all of our students through this week.
At the end of the day, I am proud to be a Panther!
Homecoming Week is a week to celebrate McKinleyville High School and there is much to celebrate, all of our sports teams, our clubs, our diversity and our school family. So please support our students come out to a game, attend our parade and join us on Friday night when our JV football team will play at 7:30.
McKinleyville High School is a family and as a family, we have the responsibility to care for each other, to treat each other well and to keep each other safe. We did not live up to that responsibility this past week, but I am confident that as a school, we will come out of this stronger as a family and continue to work to improve ourselves.
McKinleyville High School
And here is Collart’s statement from today:
In addition to the email and autodialer that I sent to parents, students and staff which has now been distributed I would like to add a few things.
The process of investigation and engagement last week was exceptionally powerful. Our work as a school community revealed a strong character and moral compass that guided my decision-making process.
Our students, staff and parents have all shared with me their support for our school and the desire to hold ourselves accountable when we make mistakes.
I am confident in all the young men on our football team, who are handling this the right way, and confident in all the great students at McKinleyville High School who want to help us move forward together.
In the end, our school is committed to being a welcoming and safe place for all students and their families. We will continue working to uphold that standard.