EducationThe White Plains Examiner

Antisemitic Conduct at Girls Hoops Game Triggers Call for Change

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Antisemitic insults hurled at players of a private Jewish school’s girls varsity basketball team from Hartsdale during a game with Roosevelt High School last week has sparked outrage from local leaders and calls for disciplinary change.

Roosevelt voluntarily forfeited the Jan. 4 contest with The Leffell School after the third quarter when the Leffell Lions opted not to continue following an onslaught of racial slurs and aggressive play that led to some injuries.

Leffell players and coaches had to be escorted from the game in Yonkers by security personnel. Later, the Roosevelt coach was fired and a player was dismissed from the team.

On Monday, Yonkers Public Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Luis Rodriquez and Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano issued a joint statement regarding the incident.

“The Yonkers Public Schools along with the City of Yonkers sincerely apologize to the students and community of The Leffell School for the painful and offensive comments made to their women’s basketball team during a recent game with Roosevelt High School- Early College Studies,” Rodriguez and Spano stated. “Collectively, we do not and will not tolerate hate speech of any kind from our students and community. The antisemitic rhetoric reportedly made against the student athletes of The Leffell School are abhorrent, inappropriate and not in line with the values we set forth for our young people.”

“As soon as the School Administration learned of the incident, an investigation was conducted involving game officials, coaches and students, including school officials from The Leffell School,” they continued. “After a thorough review of videos taken at the game and interviews with those who witnessed the incident, the Yonkers Public Schools dismissed the coach and one player from the Roosevelt basketball team. The investigation is ongoing. Should the District determine other students were involved in the incident, further action would be taken by the school district where appropriate.”

Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner and State Assemblywoman MaryJane Shimsky called on the New York State Board of Regents to review the Codes of Conduct guidelines regarding disciplinary actions for improper behavior on school grounds.

“As history has taught us, silence from good people, particularly silence from leaders, can lead to horrendous consequences,” Feiner stated. “I also call on the New York State Board of Regents to investigate this incident, report whether the action of the Yonkers School District and the high school were suffcient  and in keeping with the Regent’s standards, to develop guidelines for Codes of Conduct required by the New York State’s Education Law, and to develop guidelines for school districts and schools as to appropriate public responses and disciplinary actions for behavior on school grounds which subjects anyone to abuse and hate for one’s religion or  ethnicity.”

“The allegations of antisemitic acts made against members of The Leffell School’s girls varsity basketball team are deeply disturbing,” Shimsky stated. “This is a timely reminder that we must never fail to educate students, school administrators, and the community at large about the evils of antisemitism and all forms of bigotry. Acts of hate are very often fueled by ignorance, which is why it is especially troubling to see such a report coming from a school setting. However, it also means that we are in a special position to work with these young people to address this issue at its root, promote greater mutual understanding, and banish hate from our communities.”

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said he has invited Section 1 leaders, coaches and players to participate in an Education Round Table. The initiative, organized in collaboration with the Westchester County Human Rights Commission and the Westchester County Youth Bureau, aims to facilitate open dialogue, promote understanding and provide education on how to engage with fellow players with respect and dignity.

“We believe in the power of sports to not only entertain but also to educate and inspire. By creating a dialogue, we hope to establish a platform for sharing knowledge and promoting the development of athletes both on and off the court,” Latimer said.

In addition, the county is organizing a training session for Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation & Conservation staff working at the Westchester County Center during the Section 1 Tournament. The training is designed to ensure that all staff, patrons and players are treated with the utmost respect and dignity, fostering a positive and inclusive atmosphere.

“Hate speech has no place in Westchester County and will not be tolerated,” Latimer said. “High school sports are meant for enjoyment, camaraderie and good sportsmanship. The recent incident goes against the spirit of fair play and unity that these games are intended to foster.”



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