BALDWIN CITY, KS (KCTV) -- A state probe that interviewed 49 people during a month-long investigation found no evidence that Baldwin High School students took part in racist chants during a volleyball match against Piper High School on Oct. 8, according to a new statement from the Baldwin City School District.
An attorney from the Kansas Association of School Boards had conducted the investigation at the request of the Baldwin City School District Board of Education, using video footage, security camera footage and dozens of interviews.
During the alleged incident, some Piper High School players and students said that while playing at Baldwin High School, they heard racially-charged chants, including monkey noises.
Piper High School's volleyball team is made up of mostly black players, which some parents and students believed inspired the alleged racist chants.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Baldwin City School District says the state's independent investigator "concluded that there was no evidence to support the allegation that the Baldwin student section created racially-charged chants or noises during the second set or at any point during or after the volleyball game."
The school district's statement does make note of an altercation outside of the school between rival students following the match. The statement does not go into detail, but says:
A Piper player misinterpreted what the Baldwin students were talking about and then confronted the students. The two groups were separated by a Baldwin staff member. The Baldwin students went to their respective vehicles and the Piper players went to their bus as evidenced from security camera footage overlooking the area. The Piper players were not followed to their bus.
The Baldwin City School District notes that because of the situation, they will enforce a ban on artificial noisemakers, make sure opponents' buses are parked in a proper location and have a student resource officer attend varsity sporting events.
The Piper School District has remained mostly quiet following the incident and during the resulting investigation, releasing only a statement commending their student athletes for handling the situation "with grace and dignity," and saying they would work with the Baldwin City School District to conduct a full investigation.
The Baldwin City School District notes that the Piper School District turned down an invitation to cosponsor the state's investigation into the matter.
A media representative for the Kansas Association of School Boards said the organization could not independently release the investigation's findings because they are covered under attorney-client privilege. However, they said their client, the Baldwin City School District, is free to release the details.
Here is the Baldwin City School District's full statement following the state investigation:
As a result of the allegations levied against Baldwin high school students at the October 8th volleyball match with Piper High School, the USD 348 Board of Education directed that an independent investigation be conducted by an attorney from the Kansas Association of School Boards. USD 203 declined our invitation to co-sponsor the independent investigation. The outside investigation consisted of reviewing 20 written statements from Baldwin students at the game, 13 written statements from Baldwin staff and parents at the game, four written statements from individuals on the floor working the game, 12 in-person interviews including three Piper High School Volleyball Players and their guardians. The investigator visited the gym where the volleyball match was played. Video footage of the varsity volleyball game was reviewed, along with security camera footage of the walkway from the gymnasium to the parking lot for the time relevant to this investigation.
The investigator concluded that Piper volleyball players heard crowd noises during the second set and interpreted those noises as racially charged. That is, noises were in fact made during the course of the game and the players’ interpretations of these noises were racially charged.
However, the investigator also concluded that there was no evidence to support the allegation that the Baldwin student section created racially charged chants or noises during the second set or at any point during or after the volleyball game. There was not any evidence to support the Piper players’ contention that the noises were “monkey” noises. Yet, a Piper student did make noises similar to that of a “monkey” during the third set of this match. However, these noises cannot be heard during the second set when the allegations occurred.
After the game, there was an incident between some Baldwin students and Piper players as they exited the gymnasium. A Piper player misinterpreted what the Baldwin students were talking about and then confronted the students. The two groups were separated by a Baldwin staff member. The Baldwin students went to their respective vehicles and the Piper players went to their bus as evidenced from security camera footage overlooking the area. The Piper players were not followed to their bus.
As set forth above, the investigator concluded that the Piper player heard crowd noises that were interpreted as racially charged. The investigator also concluded that there is no evidence or corroboration that any Baldwin students made racially charged noises/chants nor did any Baldwin students follow the Piper players to the bus.
Regardless of the outcome of the independent investigation, the Board of Education wants to make it clear that USD 348 does not tolerate racism or racist acts of any kind. USD 348 considers these allegations as very serious and will take all steps within its power to continue to maintain a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment and community. These steps will include enforcing the ban on artificial noisemakers, ensuring the visiting teams bus parks in the bus loop, and having an SRO attend all possible varsity sporting events.
The USD 348 Board of Education values learning. Thus, we actively view this as an opportunity to foster and facilitate the many lessons this situation has presented to our students, staff, and community.