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February 19, 2013

Schools discuss racism with NAACP

Group invited administrators to talk

NEW ALBANY — Lingering concerns about whether some costumes worn at a recent middle school basketball game were racially charged were addressed with members of the New Albany Chapter of the NAACP and administrators from the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. on Tuesday night.

The local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People invited district officials and parents from Parkview Middle School to talk about gorilla costumes and President Barack Obama masks worn by some Highland Hills students at a game on Feb. 7. Parents voiced concerns that the motivation for wearing the costumes and masks were racially charged.

Lisa Barnett, a parent of one of the players on Parkview’s team that night, said she thought the district had downplayed the issue in media coverage by limiting the incident to three students and appearing to not understand the seriousness of the issues discussed.

“There were more than three masks, it seemed like a whole cheering section right in back of our basketball team that either had on black nylon masks, they had on Obama masks and a bunch of gorillas and monkeys,” Barnett said. “I couldn’t focus on the game because of these masks behind our boys.”

She said another parent with her asked one of the students why they were wearing a black nylon mask and said they were representing the black boys.

In an article in the News and Tribune on Feb. 12, Steve Griffin, principal at Highland Hills, said he thought students were emulating students at college games with the costumes. Bruce Hibbard, superintendent, also said in that article that he thought the students did not have the intent to offend others.

Bill Briscoe, assistant superintendent, said he understood why the district might have been viewed as insensitive or dismissive of the issue after media coverage, but wanted to assure the community that they understood the gravity of the incident.

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