Allegations of racist remarks at New Prague basketball game unsubstantiated, district says

An independent investigation into allegations of racist remarks and noises made during a girls basketball game between New Prague and Robbinsdale Cooper last month has found allegations of the behavior weren’t substantiated, according to New Prague Area Schools.

A letter sent to staff and family members in the school district on Sunday night says the investigation into the Feb. 15 game found multiple allegations were not substantiated, including a statement made that said adult and student fans made loud monkey noises directed at the opposing team.

The letter went on to say another allegation of a fan yelling out “monkey” while a player from the opposing team was shooting a free throw wasn’t substantiated. Instead, the district says the word yelled during the free throw was “Nike,” the name of a play, and it was called by New Prague’s coach for the play following the free throw.

During the investigation, the district says about 20 people who were at the game were interviewed, and none of the people interviewed heard monkey noises, including one person from Robbinsdale Area Schools.

The letter goes on to say district officials found about 10 seconds of video had a repeated, low-pitched noise but officials couldn’t determine what the noise was or who made it.

In addition, the district says it learned of the allegation through a social media post that was made after the game ended, not through a report at the game.

As previously reported, the superintendent of Robbinsdale Area Schools said the district won’t compete in any New Prague-hosted athletics “for the foreseeable future.” That decision was made in response to the allegations of racist behavior at the game.

The Robbinsdale Area School District issued a statement Monday reacting to the investigation’s findings, saying in part it “is disappointed, but not surprised, to learn the outcome of the investigation commissioned by New Prague Area Schools into racist taunts against the Cooper High School girls basketball team.” Here is their full statement:

“Robbinsdale Area Schools is disappointed, but not surprised, to learn the outcome of the investigation commissioned by New Prague Area Schools into racist taunts against the Cooper High School girls basketball team. The investigation found that “the allegation that New Prague adult and student fans were making loud monkey noises directed at the opposing team could not be substantiated.” As we shared with the community Feb. 23, we believe our Cooper student-athletes and coaches. We believe the first-person statements they made about the incident, and we believe the team did experience racist taunts and jeers from the New Prague crowd. We shared with New Prague officials what happened during this game. We also refused to subject our student athletes and additional staff members to questioning by their investigators – a process that would have forced students and staff to relive their traumatic experience. New Prague Area Schools has dismissed the experiences of our students and staff as visitors in their district. Robbinsdale Area Schools continue to stand with, support and believe our student athletes. We are proud of the way they handled themselves amidst this display of ignorance. Regardless of the findings of New Prague’s investigation, Robbinsdale Area Schools, including Cooper High School, will not compete in any athletic events against New Prague for the foreseeable future.”

David Engstrom, Superintendent of the Robbinsdale Area School District, and Cabinet of Robbinsdale Area Schools

Although the letter sent to New Prague families said the allegations were unsubstantiated, it went on to say the district regrets “any harm caused to Robbinsdale-Cooper students, families, and communities” and that “derogatory comments, including racial slurs, and racist conduct are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The allegations caused the school board to put together a plan to address culture within the district’s schools.

RELATED: New Prague school board discusses inclusiveness, claims of racist behavior

Other allegations of racism have been linked to the New Prague School District.

The St. Louis Park High School athletic director said in a letter his school would no longer compete with New Prague High School due to a “racist experience” during a hockey game on Feb. 15, and the decision was also influenced by more allegations of racism against another school in the Metro West Conference. The New Prague school district tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that incident was dealt with immediately the night of the game, and the “appropriate action steps were followed according to District and Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) policy.”

RELATED: St. Louis Park High School refuses to play New Prague following alleged racist incident

Another incident involving New Prague happened just last week, when students of the upper elementary age allegedly made a hand gesture during Wednesday’s hockey game that is synonymous with white supremacy, according to the MSHSL. The league says the gestures were caught on camera during Wednesday’s boys hockey state tournament game against Hermantown, and the students didn’t know the gesture was synonymous with white supremacy.

RELATED: MSHSL: New Prague students accused of making hand gesture synonymous with white supremacy during hockey game