Alleged Camas Racial Slurs Investigation Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing
Camas, WA — An independent ESD 112 investigation into allegations of racial slurs and taunting at a December 10 Camas home girls basketball game has concluded with nine findings, and no evidence to substantiate the allegations.
Investigator Gay Selby submitted her findings to Camas School District (CSD) Superintendent Doug Hood on January 20, and the report was released to Camas parents today. The investigation began after a December 13 Holla Mentors letter from Benson High School (BHS) Coach Eric Knox to CSD leadership alleging racial slurs (including the “N” word) and taunting from the student section during the JV and Varsity games on December 10 at the Camas High School gymnasium, also known as The Warehouse.
In her conclusion, Selby said “that some sort of inappropriate language likely was used by the CHS students, though no students could be specifically identified.”
In his letter, Knox said: “Based on my team’s experience in your gym Friday night, clearly you have a lot more work to do around fundamental principles of diversity, equity and inclusion. My team is solely comprised of young women of color; they deserve to be treated with respect and feel safe no matter what gym they play in. What are you going to do to ensure that Camas High School will be a safe environment for the next team of non-white students that plays in your gym? I leave this question for all of you to grapple with and I trust that you will do so.”
Hood said his administration took the allegations seriously and moved swiftly to initiate the investigation.
Selby’s investigation focused on the following:
- Allegations by BHS Coach, Eric Knox, that racial slurs, including the “N-word” were directed by CHS students in the bleachers, toward BHS players, on the court.
- Interviews with CHS students, CHS administrators and supervisors, CHS parents and supporters, referees, the BHS coach, and BHS players.
- Two videos of the CHS-BHS girls’ varsity basketball game (no video available of junior varsity game) and newspaper articles, including Camasonian (CHS school newspaper) article, and social media posts.
- Review of any applicable policies and handbooks (CHS Code of Conduct).
- Review of applicable emails.
- Camas High School Code of Conduct (Camas School District Policy 3207), p.28
Nearly 50 people were interviewed, including: CHS Athletic Director, CHS Principal, CHS Girls’ Assistant Basketball Coach, CHS Cheerleader Advisor, CHS Cheerleaders (4), Referees (3), CHS Players (3), CHS Parents and Supporters, CHS Students (28, not including cheerleaders and players) Non-Camas High School Student, BHS Varsity Coach, BHS Players (2), and WIAA Executive Director.
“To arrive at these findings, I interviewed each of the persons listed above and reviewed two separate videos of the girls’ varsity basketball game between Camas High School and Benson High School on December 10, 2021,” Selby said. “Many adults interviewed are easily identifiable, students will remain anonymous. The students interviewed represent all high school grade levels, and were dispersed throughout the student section.”
- Everyone associated with CHS, who was in attendance for the junior varsity and/or the varsity games, did not recall hearing any racial slurs or seeing inappropriate gestures from the CHS student section directed at the Benson High School teams or individual players.
- Each of three officials (referees) interviewed stated they had not heard any racial slurs or inappropriate gestures from the CHS student section directed at the team or individual players. They further stated the crowd, especially the students, were loud and into the game. They noted there was an issue during the game that involved the Benson coach challenging the recording of fouls.
- CHS personnel in attendance at the junior varsity and/or varsity games, located in positions where they would likely hear any racial slurs or inappropriate language or gestures coming from the student section, stated they did not hear or see anything inappropriate. Both indicated that if they had heard or seen anything of this nature, they would have talked with the student(s) immediately and taken any additional appropriate action as needed.
- When asked how they would describe the CHS students during the game, many students responded as follows: “really into the game, loud, energetic, supportive, enthusiastic, rowdy” but nothing different than usual when cheering on the Papermakers.
- When CHS students were asked if there was anything about the game that seemed somewhat unusual from previous games they had attended, several commented on the BHS players kneeling for the National Anthem and/or being surprised when the Benson varsity coach crossed the court towards the student section but was intercepted by the referees. They acknowledged hearing the Benson coach shout something at the student section as he crossed the court, but no one could recall what he said given the loud environment of the gymnasium.
- CHS parents/supporters interviewed stated they did not hear any racial slurs or inappropriate gestures coming from the student section.
- Several CHS students commented a person they assumed was a Benson parent, walked in front of the student section 2-3 times, but they did not recall him saying anything to the students.
- An article in the January 5, 2022, issue of the student news publication the Camasonian cited a CHS student who stated he/she had observed the racist remarks directed towards the players: “A girl on the Benson basketball team fell on the court. While she was getting back up a group of boys said to each other, ‘Black Lives Matter: we stand with you’ in a mocking tone with their fists in the air. Then they started laughing. The student said the Camas students appeared to not think the players nor the coaches could hear them. They tried to just say it to each other … the boys around that did not hear it just laughed at the so-called joke.” This incident was not cited in any of the interviews with other students seated in the CHS student section. I do not know the identity of the student quoted in the school newspaper. The student chose not to be interviewed and Camasonian student journalists protected their source.
- The Benson coach stated in his letter that, “Throughout the game, both during play and timeouts, a number of my players told me one-on-one that they were hearing individuals from the student section using the N-word to taunt our players.” My interview with the coach identified three Benson players who told him they had heard the N-word; however, when and where the comments were heard differed. The coach indicated that two players had heard derogatory comments while sitting in the stands during the JV game. They moved to another area in the gymnasium. During the game a third player reported hearing the N-word which led to the coach crossing the court and approaching the Camas student section.
An interview with two of the BHS players who reported to the coach hearing derogatory comments said they heard such comments when the team walked in front of the Camas student section when they entered the gymnasium following warm-up exercises in the cafeteria/commons. The players said they heard the N-word coming from the front/center area of the CHS student section. They told the coach what they heard and he told them “don’t let them get to you.” They said the first half of the game they heard a lot of “trash talk” coming from the student section, but in the second half they heard the N-word coming again from the student section. They said that it again seemed to be coming front/center and that it was a male voice. They believe it came from the same person. They stated these were the only times they heard the N-word. Following this incident, the BHS coach crossed the court toward the CHS student section.
At the conclusion of the interview, the Benson coach was asked if he would be willing to work with the leadership of CHS in addressing issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. He stated he would “be open” to considering such if asked.
“Based on nearly 50 face-to face interviews, including two BHS players, conducted in person, via Zoom, or via telephone there is clearly a difference of opinion as to whether inappropriate language, including racial slurs and/or the use of the N-word, by CHS students occurred during the junior varsity and/or varsity girls’ basketball games between Camas High School and Benson High School on December 10, 2021,” she said. “It is not possible to reach a definitive conclusion that racial slurs and/or inappropriate gestures were directed towards the BHS girls’ basketball team or individual players from CHS students seated in the student section of the gymnasium. I did not observe any such conduct in the videos | reviewed. However, the specificity of the allegations by Coach Knox, and his allegations were generally corroborated by the interviews of the BHS players even though the details were somewhat different. The allegations of Coach Knox were also generally corroborated by the student interviewed for the school newspaper article. Therefore, I have concluded that some sort of inappropriate language likely was used by the CHS students, though no students could be specifically identified.”
The investigation offers these suggestions:
- The Camas High School Code of Conduct mentions “slurs” but needs to add language that directly addresses racial slurs, inappropriate gestures, and hurtful designations.
- Due to the coronavirus, it was not possible to hold an all-school assembly or other large gathering of CHS students prior to the basketball season to discuss sportsmanship and appropriate language/gestures at sporting events either home or away. It is suggested this be an assembly topic, or be included in an assembly for another purpose, prior to the major sport seasons of the year.
- Prior to the beginning of each athletic contest, it is suggested the PA announcer remind those in attendance, especially the student section(s) of the behavior that is expected and the behavior that will not be tolerated.
- Several students alluded to occasionally hearing racial slurs/comments among students around the campus of CHS. It is, therefore, suggested the administration and faculty continue their efforts focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion following a comprehensive plan develop with those who have the required knowledge and experience, including a strong student voice.
Hood issued this statement:
“In December, we received a devastating complaint regarding racial slurs used during a basketball game between Benson and Camas High schools which prompted an immediate third-party investigation. We are so sorry and deeply regret that any member or guest in our community would experience such a hateful act.
“It is imperative that we remain vigilant in our commitment to dismantling racist practices and experiences in our schools and community. Unfortunately, our students, families, and staff tell us that racist and other hateful incidents persist in our hallways, classrooms, and athletic spaces as confirmed by the investigation. We must continue to uproot and condemn all racist, xenophobic, and other hate-based behaviors and plan to take action. What follows is the conclusion of the investigation report received on Thursday, January 20, and the beginning of a set of ongoing practices to address concerns.”
Your article title does not match the story. It leads the reader to assume that nothing happened….there was a better title to use, including “CHS racial slurs reported released”…and let the reader discover on their own. The report said “likely” and could not point to definite proof (people, video). Given the reports from the Benson players, something happened.
I agree with previous comment: “finds evidence of likely wrongdoing” might’ve been more accurate and spurred more views to boot. Good journalism Camasonian!!