A star high school athlete in rural Marshalltown, Iowa has been suspended for three football games this fall because he posted a social media image of himself enthusiastically festooned from head to toe in white clothing during school spirit week. In the photo, he made the letter “W” with his hands — which in this case stands for white.
The student is Blair Van Staalduine, reports Des Moines NBC affiliate WHO-TV.
The student’s parents say the the principal of Marshalltown High School called Van Staalduine a racist after concluding that his hand signal was a white pride symbol.
The parents have now responded to the suspension and the charge that their son is a racist by threatening to sue.
“We were appalled,” his mother, Cathy Van Staalduine, tol WHO-TV. “We were appalled and so was he. Absolutely. Because the furthest thing from Blair is being racist.”
The school colors at Marshalltown High appear to be red, white and blue. Van Staalduine wore white because school officials had asked members of his class to wear white during school spirit week festivities.
“The actual school chose the colors that each grade would be wearing,” Cathy Van Staalduine explained. “Juniors wore white. So Blair, of course, being active in the school, dressed from head to toe in white.”
She noted emphatically that the “W” sign was for the color her son was assigned.
“Blair says if they were wearing orange, they would have done an ‘O,’” she said.
The mad mother said she talked to the principal, and he managed to call her a racist to her face.
The Marshalltown High School principal is Aiddy Phomvisay, according to the Marshalltown Senior High School website.
The Van Staalduine family is now demanding that the principal quash the suspension and issue a public apology. Otherwise, they say, they will file a lawsuit to protect their son’s good name.
As for the actual image showing her son making a “W” sign, Cathy Van Staalduine said she is holding it close to the vest in the event that this incident actually ends up in court.
School district officials did not respond to a WHO-TV reporter’s request for comment, citing student confidentiality.
Census figures from 2010 show that the quintessential small-town Iowa hamlet of Marshalltown has a population that is almost 85 percent white and less than three percent black.
A cursory Google search for “white pride hand sign” and the like shows many fists, some Hitler salutes, some Los Angeles gang signs and a lot of sad losers — but nothing that much resembles a “W.” So it’s unclear what the hand gesture could have looked like.
According to MaxPreps.com, Blair Van Staalduine is a tight end and a linebacker for the Marshalltown High Bobcats football team. Last year, the team didn’t fare very well, finishing the season just 1-8.
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