The Muskego-Norway School District concluded its investigation into allegations of racism. Here's what they found.

·5 min read
Activist group Overpass Light Brigade helped organize a "Stop Racism" demonstration at a Muskego-Norway School Board meeting on March 13. Protesters, mostly made up of Beloit basketball players' parents, called for change after Beloit Memorial High School basketball players said they faced racism from Muskego High School students at their March 3 playoff game.
Activist group Overpass Light Brigade helped organize a "Stop Racism" demonstration at a Muskego-Norway School Board meeting on March 13. Protesters, mostly made up of Beloit basketball players' parents, called for change after Beloit Memorial High School basketball players said they faced racism from Muskego High School students at their March 3 playoff game.

After a March 3 playoff game between Beloit Memorial High School and Muskego High School, Beloit basketball players said they were met with racism upon their visit to MHS. The Muskego-Norway School District's investigation into Beloit's claims is now complete.

Muskego's superintendent Dr. Kelly Thompson released a statement on March 23 that said the district's investigation didn't find enough evidence to prove racism came from the MHS student section, but "unsportsmanlike behaviors" clearly occurred.

The school's investigation was completed by assistant superintendent Jeff Petersen. The Muskego Police Department's investigation is still ongoing. The district did not respond to the Journal Sentinel's request for an interview.

Here's what Petersen found, and what actions will be taken.

It's unclear who traced swastikas and a racial slur onto lockers

Pictures taken by Beloit Memorial High School basketball players show a racial slur written in the dust in the Muskego High School locker room.
(Photo: Submitted)
Pictures taken by Beloit Memorial High School basketball players show a racial slur written in the dust in the Muskego High School locker room. (Photo: Submitted)

Beloit basketball players took videos and photos of swastikas and the slur that were traced into the dust on top of their lockers.

This was enough evidence to confirm that the tracings were there, but the district couldn't identify who made them, or whether they were drawn to target Beloit Memorial. It had been months since the tops of the lockers had been cleaned, the investigation found, and similar images were in other MHS locker rooms.

The images violated the district's anti-harassment policy regardless of whether they were directed toward Beloit basketball players or not, the statement said.

In response, the following changes will be made:

  • An "inspection checklist" will be made to ensure locker rooms are "clean and welcoming for guest players"

  • All MHS locker rooms will be monitored and cleaned more often

  • Muskego's activities office will designate an event host who will ensure there are no issues with the visiting team's game environment

Muskego's student section did not organize a "thug" theme, investigation finds

Beloit Memorial fans said MHS students organized an offensive "thug" theme, wearing ski masks and tank tops. The investigation found that this theme wasn't meant to be racist.

Three "basketball game officials, all of whom are Black," according to the investigation, said ski masks are seen at many games and aren't racially motivated.

Tank tops are regularly worn by MHS students, Peterson found. The MHS Student Theme Page on Instagram announced on March 3 that the theme was "Beaters and PJs," and "Beaters and Shiesties" was the theme for the 2022 playoff game.

However, Muskego students interviewed understood how the theme could be perceived negatively.

Moving forward:

  • All student themes will require preapproval from administration; ones in compliance with the student handbook and district policies will be approved

  • MHS students will not be allowed to wear outfits that could "harass or intimidate others" to athletic events; if they do, corrective actions will be taken

  • The district's activities office will run the ideas for themes with the visiting team's activities department

Students were not yelling racist slurs, but were being unsportsmanlike, district says

Beloit Memorial said the MHS student section yelled racial slurs and monkey noises at Beloit's basketball players. While there isn't evidence to show that their behavior was racially motivated, the investigation found that MHS students did display unsportsmanlike behavior, Thompson's statement said.

MHS students yelled chants and profanities and played musical recorders, all of which violate the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association's fundamentals of sportsmanship, Thompson's statement said. Students who used profanity and recorders were removed from the game.

Game officials interviewed said they didn't hear any racial slurs or monkey noises during the game. "As to being three Black officials working that night, I do believe if we would've heard such language, we would've stopped the contest and spoke with game management," they said.

The monkey noises may have been confused with barking from the student section, done to distract Beloit players when shooting free throws, the statement said.

For future games:

  • Students will have to stand or sit on bleachers or other designated areas with enough distance from competitors

  • The activities office will create a "Code of Conduct" or "Participation Rights" that outlines steps taken if anyone feels unsafe or believes WIAA guidelines are being violated

Dialog between Beloit and Muskego will continue, superintendent says

The Muskego-Norway District is "committed to continuing the dialogue with the School District of Beloit," Thompson's statement said.

Administration will provide "listen and learn" opportunities to ensure students' safety, Thompson said. The superintendent did not respond to the Journal Sentinel's questions about what these opportunities will entail, or how people can participate.

The superintendent and assistant superintendent did not respond to the Journal Sentinel's questions about what, if any, other preventative measures will be taken to ensure the symbols found by Beloit basketball players will not be drawn again.

Beloit Superintendent Dr. Willie Garrison II told the Journal Sentinel that he looks forward to working with Muskego.

“All school districts must be committed to providing safe learning environments in our schools and at athletic/activities events," Garrison said. "We thank the Muskego-Norway School District for their investigation and subsequent report. We look forward to continuing our conversations and collaborative work with the Muskego-Norway Schools.”

More:Racism and bullying have long been problems in Muskego schools and the community, former students say

Quinn Clark can be emailed at QClark@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @Quinn_A_Clark.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Muskego can't prove students were racist to Beloit Memorial players