Mount Vernon responds to racist tweets by Mahopac players

Tim Fleischer has the story from Mount Vernon, NY.
March 7, 2014 2:22:55 PM PST
Officials in the Mount Vernon and Mahopac school systems are working with the state education department, which is investigating racist tweets posted by Mahopac players after a recent high school basketball game.

In addition, Mount Vernon officials are calling for a wider investigation of the incident, saying the education law known as the Dignity Act was violated.

"Kids need to know, in Mahopac you break the law, there are consequences. Maybe they don't know about the Dignity Act. They will, when this is done," said Mount Vernon School Superintendent Judith Johnson.

The episode unfolded after Mount Vernon's basketball team defeated Mahopac Feb. 27th in a tense game in the NYSPHSAA Section 1AA Boys Basketball tournament.

"The sportsmanship fell to an all-time low, and the racial hatred that we all felt was disgusting," said Mount Vernon coach Robert Cimmino.

School officials claim offensive slurs were made by Mahopac players during the game.

"One player said, 'you all, the N-word, didn't deserve this. This was a BS call by the ref," said Johnson.

And it didn't stop there, school officials say. Once it hit the Twitter-sphere, particularly among several Mahopac High School students, the comments, they claim, grew more offensive.

"It says, 'a very rare picture of annual income of every family on the Mount Vernon team combined," said Johnson, referring to a picture posted of a few coins.

Three students at Mahopac have been suspended for the tweets, as state education officials investigate the incidents.

"Some of Mahopac's team players displayed a lack of dignity and disrespect toward Mount Vernon by posting Twitter comments that cannot be condoned nor tolerated," said Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest D. Davis.

At the game, there were scuffles in the stands between supporters of both teams. "Everyone at Mahopac and everyone at Mount Vernon, they were all screaming and cursing at each other. I would never think a basketball game would be taken to that level," said student Adam Dervishaj.

The tweets included, "2, 4, 6, 8, most of them won't graduate" probably the tamest tweet we can report.

Many of the taunts were racist in nature, one student posting an image of a Confederate flag.

Another student replies, "Plz parade it thru the halls tomorrow."

The Mahopac superintendent of schools, Thomas Manko, is not mincing words.

"I'm appalled, it's unacceptable. Our children know better. Parents can't watch them 24/7 and make them write what they should write," Manko said.

Mount Vernon officials released screen grabs of tweets captured before they were deleted, racist messages with the hashtag #mountvernonzoo.

"While we can't take what happened back, we can make sure that it doesn't occur anymore at any other school," said Mayor Davis.

But others in Mahopac point out that Mount Vernon supporters should share some of the blame, and fear their community will be portrayed as intolerant.

"We're a very healthy and good community that is willng to face up to issues that may arise from time to time, and we don't turn a deaf ear or slide things under the rug," said Manko.