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School investigating alleged racial harassment during basketball game

Orchard Park basketball
Posted at 5:54 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 17:54:45-05

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. (WKBW) — While the Buffalo Bills took the field in Orchard Park Monday night, the Orchard Park High School Girls Varsity Basketball team took the court an hour and a half away in Jamestown at Southwestern.

It was a game Dr. Dena Stevenson says was a great atmosphere to start.

“They had a really large student section which was exciting for a girls basketball game,” Dr. Stevenson said. “They had the cha-cha slide at halftime, a beanbag contest, 50/50 raffle.”

In the stands, Dr. Stevenson says she cheered on her daughter, Orchard Park senior Maddy Stevenson.

“Fans were being fans,” she said.

She says some fans from the opposing team, sitting in front of her didn’t seem to like her enthusiasm for the visiting team. She says at one point the adults turned around and called her a derogatory name.

Dr. Stevenson says she brushed it off, and then another set of adults sat in front of her and at one point called her a racial slur.

“They then called me the “n” word. I’m an adult. It’s okay, it’s not okay but it had to be okay because I’m there to cheer on my daughter and the team.”

It’s what happened next that Dr. Stevenson says made her head turn.

“My daughter was at the foul line, she had two shots to attempt. I could hear the student section being rambunctious—being kids. But then I heard what sounded like animal sounds. I couldn’t initially make it out. My daughter made the first basket and I saw her turn because she heard something,” Dr. Stevenson said. “What I realized at that point were they were gorilla sounds and they got louder when she made the second basket.”

Dr. Stevenson says after the game, her daughter was distraught.

“She said ‘did you hear them make those monkey calls?”

Dr. Stevenson says when she got home, she wrote an e-mail to the Southwestern High School Principal. She says the next day, she received a call from the Superintendent of Southwestern.

Southwestern released the following statement:

“The Southwestern District received information on Tuesday, December 7, 2021 regarding a reported incident at the Southwestern Girls Basketball game against Orchard Park. We take these allegations very seriously and immediately commenced a full investigation, which is currently ongoing.

When the District was made aware of the allegations, we reached out to Orchard Park administration and will continue to communicate with them throughout the investigation.

The Southwestern District is committed to equity and acceptance of all students. This type of conduct has no place in our District, and if it occurred, we will take swift action to address it.  Nonetheless, at this time, we will not make any public comment on allegations related to the conduct of students.”

The Orchard Park School District says:

A school district has no greater duty than ensuring the safety and welfare of its students. The Orchard Park Central School District was made aware of an incident during a girls varsity basketball game this past Monday evening where the opponent's fans were allegedly directing racial slurs and sounds toward one of our student athletes. The Orchard Park Central School District has been in close contact with the District that hosted the game and is working with that District and Section VI to address this concern. “