GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A video of students at a Jenison High School basketball game making monkey sounds and gestures at a Black player Friday night has led the school district to start an investigation.
Posts of the video first began circulating on social media after the game with many pointing out what appears to be a group of students who can be heard making sounds as a player for Wyoming steps up and shoots his free throws. Later on in the video, at least one student in the stands puts his hands underneath his armpits to imitate a monkey.
Lillian Henry, a sophomore at Wyoming High School, was in attendance and saw the incident firsthand. She says it happened on two separate occasions in the span of 10 minutes.
“I was disgusted. Like, my first initial thought, I was like that’s terrible, I know that would never happen at our school,” she said.
JPS has released two statements regarding the incident. The first one said the administration was “sickened that athletes and families were exposed to behavior of this nature,” but it did not further explain what the behavior was. A second statement issued Saturday afternoon eventually called it “racist.”
The latest statement from JPS said that an investigation is underway into the students involved and that they hope to use this as a “teachable moment” for the student body.
“We all need to hold each other accountable and set the standard for how we treat others. Racist behavior in our schools is unacceptable, and we will not be silent about it or perpetuate it. We will not make excuses for actions that hurt others. We are all responsible for working together to repair the hurt caused and rebuild trust. Please take time to discuss this with your child(ren). Let’s demonstrate to our students and community that we take this responsibility seriously,” the statement read.
Wyoming Public Schools Superintendent Craig Hoekstra released a statement to News 8 saying that the district has been in contact with JPS since it was first notified of the “disturbing incident.”
Given that an African-American scholar-athlete is shooting a free throw at this particular moment in the game, the monkey noises coming from the student section certainly appear to be directed at him.Craig Hoekstra, Wyoming Public Schools Superintendent
This targeted behavior is deplorable and unacceptable, and as we strive for equity and inclusion for all, we must hold members of our communities to a high standard of respect, responsibility, and good sportsmanship. I am asking you (JPS) to look into, and address, the actions of the spectators demonstrating this behavior so that all individuals, no matter if they are members of your community or those visiting, are treated with dignity and respect.”
Hoekstra also added that “this type of behavior demonstrates that society has a lot of work to do.”
Henry said that she hopes more than just an investigation comes out of this.
“Suspension, maybe even expulsion for those kids because it’s taught. You get taught that. That’s not just something that comes by naturally. So, I definitely think that there needs to be more awareness at their schools and that community as a whole. And I think it just definitely needs to be brought to their attention more,” she said.