Basketball

After racist taunts at basketball game, Mesa students face discipline

"Blatant disrespect for others will never be tolerated on our campus or any other in Mesa Public Schools," says a letter from Red Mountain High School Principal Jared Ryan to parents.

Mountain Ridge's Saikou Gueye (11) shoots a free throw in the first half against Red Mountain at Red Mountain High School in Mesa on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

Mountain Ridge’s Saikou Gueye (11) shoots a free throw in the first half against Red Mountain at Red Mountain High School in Mesa on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017.

Mesa Red Mountain High School students who made monkey sounds and gestures toward a black student from the visiting team during a basketball game are facing disciplinary action, according to a school letter sent to parents on Monday.

Glendale Mountain Ridge High School player Saikou Gueye, who is black, was standing near the home team’s stands during a game at Red Mountain on Friday night when some in the student section screeched “hoo-hoo-ah-ah,” mimicking the sound of a monkey, and began pounding fists against chests and scratching their armpits.

Gueye was the only black player on the floor at the time.

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A video shot by an azcentral.com photographer shows several students joining in. Red Mountain Principal Jared Ryan walked over and escorted one of the students out of the stands, making him leave the premises.

“It is apparent that not all students value one another for their unique differences,” Ryan said in his letter to parents.

Blatant disrespect for others will never be tolerated on our campus or any other in Mesa Public Schools.
Red Mountain Principal Jared Ryan

“All students who were involved with the incident now face school disciplinary action aligned to governing board and school district policy,” the letter states. “Blatant disrespect for others will never be tolerated on our campus or any other in Mesa Public Schools.”

Ryan, in his letter, said school officials reviewed a video of the game and interviewed witnesses to determine what took place and which students were participating. The letter indicated that more than one student will be disciplined.

Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Hollands was not able to confirm how many students would be disciplined or specify what the discipline will be.

However, she cited a district policy that would apply to the case, which shows a minimum discipline for a first offense is a “short” suspension, while the maximum is explulsion.

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Gueye, 17, told The Arizona Republic after Friday’s game that he could hear what was going on.

“I noticed it, but I had no choice but to ignore it,” he told The Republic. “It kills me that racism still exists, but I’ve been dealing with stuff like this my whole life. I know the kid wanted me to react, but I wasn’t going to give him what he wanted.”

Ryan assured parents in his letter the school is committed to promoting diversity and tolerance.

“We work hard to ensure all students are respectful of one another and have an appreciation for the diversity across campus. Red Mountain is a beautiful school and is filled with extraordinary opportunities for all students from our community. Regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or any other unique difference between all of us, we will continue to come together as one Red Mountain Family,” the letter states.

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The Arizona Interscholastic Association released a statement on the matter Tuesday.

“There have been a couple of recent incidents in which fans and players were treated disrespectfully. While I am pleased that school administrators responded quickly, it is our sincerest desire that all students, players, spectators, families, and friends at the upcoming tournament are treated with respect,”  AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer said in the statement.

The AIA constitution says member schools’ administrators are responsible for maintaining good sportsmanship at games.

The statement is intended to remind schools, players and spectators to “demonstrate trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship from the stands. Fairness and respect are expected for all cultures represented by our diverse student and fan population.”