School principal: Trump chants crossed line into hate speech

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CANTON, Conn. (WTNH) – Canton school Superintendent Kevin Case is formally apologizing to Classical Magnet School in Hartford after an incident during a basketball game earlier this week.

“I apologize on behalf of our community for their behavior because that’s not something we tolerate in Canton,” said Case. “During the game a few of our students were chanting Trump, Trump, Trump. The comments were seen to be very divisive, disrespectful.”

He said Trump signs were also seen in the stands.

“We certainly believe in the right of free speech. Students have the right to express themselves but what we need to find out is what was the intent,” said Case.

He sees this as a teachable moment.

How do we have civil discourse? How can each of us as citizens share our thoughts with one another and possibly in the end agree to disagree.”

Classical Magnet is a predominantly African American and Latino high school in Hartford. The Canton student body is predominately white, and is about 15 miles northwest of Hartford.

In a letter to parents, Canton High School Principal Andrew DiPippo says about seven or eight students crossed the line with their chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump!” as players from the Classical Magnet School were attempting foul shots during Tuesday night’s conference playoff game in Canton.

Canton officials held an assembly Wednesday to discuss the incident, which DiPippo said damaged the district’s reputation as a welcoming community.

Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Hartford’s acting Superintendent of Schools, issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:

This is an unfortunate incident that Hartford Public Schools will address urgently. We want all our students and their families to know that this is unacceptable conduct. HPS will take every step necessary to ensure that our students and families are protected from physical harm and emotional harassment. It’s sad that this would happen in an athletics setting. Schools are supposed to compete in good faith partnerships with the ultimate goal of supporting student growth. I look forward to speaking with Canton Public Schools District leadership to have a conversation on moving ahead, what we can learn, and how to prevent these kinds of situations from being repeated in the future.”

On Thursday afternoon, Dr. Zandralyn Gordon, Principle of Classical Magnet School, issued the following letter to students and parents:

Dear Families of Classical Magnet School,

As you may already be aware, our boys’ basketball team will be playing the NCCC final tomorrow against our sister HPS school Sport and Medical Sciences. I want to congratulate Coach Reggie Tucker and our amazing student athletes for this accomplishment, and we wish them the best of luck in the championship game.

GO GLADIATORS!

I write to you in light of an issue related to the semifinal game that has been raised in the media today. Although our team won fair and square 48-47 in the semifinal at Canton, we were extremely disappointed in the behavior of some Canton fans in the stands who were chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump” throughout the game and carrying similar banners.

I wanted to let you know that Coach Tucker met with our players and they have expressed their feelings. Their voices are essential to helping us devise a course of action. I  want to confirm that we received a call from Canton’s school principal to apologize, as well as multiple emails from Canton students and families to share their support.

As noted in the media, Canton held a school assembly on Wednesday to discuss the incident.  Acting Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez has strongly asserted that HPS will take every step necessary to ensure that our students and families are protected from physical harm and emotional harassment.

We are hoping that we can turn this unfortunate experience into a constructive learning opportunity for everyone. If you have any ideas, questions or concerns regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office for further assistance.”

Thursday night, the girl’s basketball team had a game. News 8 spoke with a few players and fans as they warmed up.

“I was absolutely disappointed, I was sitting on the bench talking to my teammates and it was unnecessary it’s over the line,” said Ian Witzgall who plays guard for the Canton Warriors. “You’ve got to think about the context of the situation, be a little smarter about it. There’s no reason to do that, add that kind of complexity to the game.”

Since the boy’s game, there’s been an assembly where all of the students were brought together to discuss what is appropriate and what isn’t.

“The fans have the same exact responsibility. We come out here to play, they come into the stands voluntarily to support us. They didn’t really support us, but brought their own beliefs to the sport,” said boy’s center Mitchell Cormier.

They weren’t expecting any trouble at the girl’s game Thursday night.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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