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Robbinsdale Schools, St. Louis Park H.S. Won't Compete Against New Prague Over Incidents Of Alleged Racism

Originally published on Feb. 22

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Twin Cities high school and an entire school district will no longer compete with a south metro school after another alleged incident of student-athletes experiencing racism while playing there.

Andrew Ewald, the athletic director at St. Louis Park High School, wrote Monday to his counterpart at New Prague High School, saying that on Feb. 15 their boys hockey team was subjected to a "racist experience" while playing at New Prague.

Officials at the New Prague district responded to the letter, saying that the school does not tolerate hate speech by students or players.

"We know the hurt this causes," said Tim Dittberner, the district's superintendent. "The incident was dealt with immediately. We sincerely apologize for this incident and make no excuses for the behavior. We are taking steps to work with our athletes, student body, staff and coaches so these types of incidents do not happen in the future. We will be sharing more specific information about these steps at a future date."

WCCO's Erin Hassanzadeh spoke with a woman who says racially-charged bullying is happening inside New Prague High School. Social media messages sent to a Black student show his classmates repeatedly hurling racial slurs. They're written out as well, with some encouraging their friends to also say the N-word.

There's also a recent video from inside the school of a student wearing a Confederate flag. All of this was sent to the student throughout the school year.

Erica Smith's son plays AAU basketball with that student. She's a second mother of sorts.

"It started in sixth grade where people would call him the N-word. It's gotten really bad this past year though," Smith said. "It's just constant. He's one of maybe five or six Black kids in the school and ... we're trying to get him out of that district because it's just such a horrible atmosphere for him to be constantly bullied because of the color of his skin."

Smith reached out to his principal and superintendent, but says not enough was done.

"I left the conversation feeling very dismissed," she said. "I think something bigger needs to happen."

New Prague Game Racist Taunts
A still from the game featuring racist chants on Feb. 16 (credit: CBS)

Smith says wasn't surprised to hear St. Louis Park High School's announcement. The incident with St. Louis Park happened on the same day a coach for the Robbinsdale Cooper High School girls basketball team said his players were subjected to racist taunts while also playing against New Prague. Members in the audience allegedly made monkey sounds at Cooper players, many of whom are Black.

Following the incident with the Cooper High girls team, officials in the New Prague district said they hired an outside firm to investigate, adding that if the accusations proved true, actions would be taken.

Robbinsdale Area Public Schools Superintendent David Engstrom announced Wednesday that its teams won't compete in New Prague for "the foreseeable future" -- adding that the Minnesota State High School League "has the responsibility of taking the experience of our students and coaching staff at New Prague High School seriously."

This alone was not enough to stop St. Louis Park from ceasing competition with New Prague, at least through the spring season. In his letter, Ewald said that there'll be no games between the schools until "the harm that was caused is repaired and we are assured that any of our stakeholders, most importantly our students, will not be victimized by racism by any New Prague stakeholder in the future."

Ewald said that St. Louis Park will remove the New Prague banner from its gymnasium until the harm is repaired and assurances are made to the school's liking.

"As I said when New Prague High School was applying to the Metro West Conference, 'I will not stand for your community and students to
have teachable moments at the expense of our students.' Therefore, I will not tolerate or allow our students to further experience any racism while participating in athletics against New Prague High School," Ewald said.

Some legislators are speaking out about the New Prague incident at Cooper High School. DFL Rep. Cedrick Frazier of New Hope called it "traumatic" and urges New Prague to address it.

WCCO reached out to the Minnesota State High School League and the New Prague High School principal, but have not heard back.

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