Ketchikan’s school board will review the district’s investigation into allegations of racism in the stands at a high school basketball game against the Metlakatla Chiefs. Interim Superintendent Melissa Johnson says the school district recently completed its investigation into the Feb. 5 basketball game against Metlakatla High School on the state’s only Native reservation.
“The KGBSD (Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District) administration is evaluating the findings of the investigation to determine next steps, including whether any disciplinary action is warranted,” Johnson said by email.
A probe was launched following complaints of Ketchikan pep club members dressed in western wear. Some accused the Ketchikan fans of antagonizing their longtime rivals by stereotyping themselves as cowboys and their opponents as Indians.
The pep club apologized last week. In an interview, senior pep club member Kollin Houthoofd said the club meant no harm and regretted the pain the incident had caused.
“We are sorry for what’s happened, and if we could go back and change the country theme and anything that happened that was any sort of offensive or known as racism, then we would,” Houthoofd said.
Some in the audience alleged they’d heard stereotypical war cries during the game. Houthoofd and other pep club members interviewed by KRBD said they didn’t hear anything of that nature.
But the pep club has acknowledged barking during free throws. Senior pep club member Dylan Nedzwecky said it’s something they do to distract the opposing players. He says it had nothing to do with the country theme or their opponents.
“We’ve done it the whole season — no malicious intent. It’s just a noise we can all do, that we know how to do, to try to throw off the other team,” Nedzwecky said.
Ketchikan’s interim superintendent, Melissa Johnson, told KRBD in an email that she will brief the school board on Feb. 23 behind closed doors on the district’s probe of the incident. Johnson said personnel and disciplinary matters are confidential. It’s unclear whether any findings of the district’s investigation will be made public. Johnson declined to immediately answer questions.
The controversy has opened a conversation about racism in the wider community. Tribal leaders in Ketchikan, Juneau and Metlakatla have denounced the Ketchikan High School fans’ antics.