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A picture with racist comments about several Garfield High School players was among several offensive posts sent by students at Issaquah High School.

UPDATE: Garfield High players, cheerleaders targeted with racist social media posts

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UPDATE: The Superintendent of the Issaquah School District has sent the following letter to Seattle School District Superintendent Jose Banda about racist tweets sent by some students directed towards some Garfield High School basketball players and cheerleaders:

Dear Superintendent Banda,

The racist Tweets that students from our district posted were deeply disturbing and appalling. The actions of these few individuals do not represent the values of our Issaquah School District community and we genuinely apologize to the students and the families at Garfield High. The District has taken disciplinary action with the Issaquah High students involved in accordance with our student discipline and violations policies. Student leaders from the Issaquah High ASB students have reached out to the student leaders in the Garfield High ASB to demonstrate that this behavior is absolutely unacceptable to us and does not represent us. Our sincere hope is that our school communities can work together to talk through what has happened and rise above the ugliness and hurt these few students from our district caused.

Sincerely,

Ron Thiele

Superintendent, Issaquah School District

Original report:

The rivalry between Issaquah and Garfield high schools' boys basketball teams has been heating up all year.

In a Feb. 1 matchup, Issaquah handed Garfield their only loss of the season.

Soon after the game, an image showed up on Facebook showing Issaquah's star guard, who is white, facing off with three of Garfield High's players, who are black. The post made racist remarks about the Garfield players.

Senior Mikayla Brooks has been a cheerleader at Garfield for two years. She says the trash talk between teams during the games or online usually stays lighthearted.

"It's usually jokes back and forth, you know we'll say things back and forth like you got swatted you know it's kind of a fun thing."

According to a police report filed by the Garfield High School resource officer, the online chatter after the teams' third match-up on February 21 crossed the line again from trash talk to hate speech.

"Other people got involved, I don't know who they are. They're behind an anonymous account and they made statements such as 'a mistake was when Abraham Lincoln freed you guys' and 'you guys have primitive minds' and stuff like that. It was really sad and very hurtful," she says. "This is the first time that we've really had a serious problem with another school, so it really took people by surprise."

Another image circulated on social media that showed a female Garfield student next to a photo of Chewbacca from Star Wars.

In all, ten pages of tweets and pictures referencing derogatory terms for African Americans, comparing them to monkeys or calling them primitive, were posted by an account labeled "IssyBros."

"To be honest, it wasn't a surprise. It was hurtful. But you have to kind of know in the back of other people's head race is involved. You don't want it to be that way."

Issaquah Principal Andrea McCormick confirmed to KIRO Radio that the tweets were sent by students at her school.

"Due to the federal right to privacy laws, I can't share with you the details on the discipline or the students involved," she said. "But we did feel it was violating our district conduct and policies and procedures which were not tolerated by us and the students that were involved were investigated and disciplined according to those policies...We found the tweets to be extremely offensive and we're disappointed that our students were involved in that activity."

Brooks says this isn't the first time Garfield students have faced racial comments connected to basketball games. Last season, they were subjected to more online slurs.

"They had made tweets saying those are the biggest black players we've ever played against and I've never seen so many wretched black cheerleaders on one squad and you guys go back to where you came from and it was really sad and hurtful again, but you know, we can't change people's minds."

Garfield's Black Student Union issued the following statement Thursday about the incidents:

"As the Garfield community of students and staff, we are disappointed by Issaquah's lack of responsiveness in assuming responsibility for the comments," says Muth.

"We expect the students involved and Issaquah as a whole to issue a formal apology," added Alicia Butler, a senior at Garfield High School.

"This is the first time we are aware that we were attacked with this kind of racist language on social media, but unfortunately we are used to hearing comments like this from students at competing schools, on and off the court," says Jagana.

According to Detective Renee Witt, the Seattle Police Department takes these messages very seriously. "It is a case that is being reviewed by our bias crime detective to see if it meets a malicious harassment filing."

Under Washington state law, malicious harassment is a bias crime and a Class C felony punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

"I think this will be a great learning moment for these students and hopefully the parents will use this as an opportunity to talk to their kids and their students and advise them that it is not only improper, it's illegal," says Witt.

Mikayla says she's satisfied that the Issaquah students are being disciplined by the school, but she doesn't want to see them face criminal charges.

"Because they're ignorant and their hate or whatever they have, I don't think it's enough to get their life thrown away or get expelled or whatever. It's not going to do me any justice because at the end of the day, they're still going to think whatever they have said. I think that they should have a talk with their parents or something and kind of reevaluate themselves."

Libby Denkmann, Ron & Don Show Producer
Libby Denkmann is producer of KIRO Radio's The Ron & Don Show (weekdays 3-7). Libby is always on the run - literally.
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