According to a press release, the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin has commended a decision made by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Friday, which found that the Burlington Area School District (BASD) failed to follow its discrimination policy when responding to accusations that high school football team members were racially harassing an opposing team.
Last fall, Black student-athletes on the Westosha football team said they were called racial slurs by Burlington high school football players at a Burlington High School football game. When Westosha players went to shake hands with Burlington following the game, they were called the n-word as they encountered Burlington players.
When news of the incident became public, multiple coaches from other schools shared on social media that they had witnessed similarly racist episodes while playing against Burlington. Some even said they forewarn their players about the potential for racial harassment when they play against Burlington.
Frustrated with the football program’s history of racism, Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism (BCDR), a community organization founded to combat racism in Burlington schools, filed a discrimination complaint and called on the district to take action. The release states that the district responded by largely brushing off BCDR’s concerns – failing to follow its internal complaint procedures and refusing to disclose any further information to BCDR – even falsely suggesting that it was against the law for the group to bring a formal complaint. One football player involved was eventually allegedly given a three-day suspension for using inappropriate language, but records indicate that the player was actually suspended for only one day.
The Department of Public Instruction has ordered Burlington Area School District to provide staff training on district discrimination policies and the proper steps to investigate under these policies. To read a copy of the decision from the ACLU, see the attachment below.