FLOYDS KNOBS — Some costumes and masks worn at a Highland Hills Middle School basketball game were perceived as racist by parents in the stands Thursday night, but New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. officials insist the students were just participating in a school spirit event.
Three students wore either gorilla or President Barack Obama masks during the school’s game against Parkview Middle School. Some of the team members on Parkview’s team were black.
Thursday night’s game was one of Highland Hills’ spirit nights, where fans wore a designated school color to the game. Steve Griffin, principal, said the school had three others previous to Thursday’s game, where they wore white, green and gold. Thursday, fans were encouraged to wear black.
“I really do think most of our kids emulate what they see on the college scene,” Griffin said. “If you watch that, there’s all kinds of different costumes that are worn in any college game. I really think our kids were trying to emulate what they were seeing on TV more than anything. I don’t think the kids themselves consciously thought about trying to offend someone, they were just trying to be goofy.”
He said other students wore costumes and masks such as Batman, a character from the “Scream” movies and an old woman.
But after he heard concerns during the game about the gorilla mask, he asked that student to take it off for the remainder of the game.
Bruce Hibbard, superintendent of New Albany-Floyd County Schools, said he also didn’t believe the students sought to offend anyone, but the district wouldn’t put up with it if they had.
“We wouldn’t tolerate that as a school district, I honestly don’t believe there was any ill will by those students at the game,” Hibbard said. “I believe it was misinterpreted. I do know that Mr. Griffin did call and apologize on behalf of the school to Parkview.”