HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The principal of Canton High School says some of his students crossed the line into hate speech when they taunted basketball players from a predominantly black and Latino school with chants of “Trump, Trump, Trump!”
Officials say about seven or eight students from Canton chanted the president’s name as players from the Classical Magnet School in Hartford were attempting foul shots during Tuesday night’s North Central Connecticut Conference semifinal game.
In a letter to parents, Canton High School Principal Andrew DiPippo said the chanting went beyond free speech or political speech.
“While students’ right to free speech and forming educated opinions about politics and current events is a cornerstone of our educational system, the exact point where political opinion converges with disrespect, discrimination or hate speech must be separated,” he wrote. “We have a reputation as a welcoming community and these students crossed this line with their comments and have damaged our reputation. As principal, I am disheartened that our message of community has not resonated with all students.”
The student body at the high school in Canton, an affluent suburb about 15 miles northwest of Hartford, is about 84 percent white, according to state education data from the 2015-16 school year. More than 69 percent of students at the magnet school are either African American or Latino, according to the state statistics.
Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Hartford’s acting superintendent, called the chants “unacceptable conduct” and expressed disappointment that it would occur in an athletic setting.
“Schools are supposed to compete in good faith partnerships with the ultimate goal of supporting student growth,” she said in a statement. “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.”
Canton officials held an assembly Wednesday to discuss what happened at the game, which the Hartford school won 48-47. Pedro Zayas, a spokesman for the Hartford School District, said he was told Canton would be sending a formal letter of apology.
The taunting display was the second aimed at minority students from a Hartford magnet school in just over a year. Last March, students from Farmington High School, in another predominantly white suburb of the city, chanted “SAT scores” during a girls basketball game against Capital Preparatory Magnet School.
Farmington officials stopped the chants and apologized for the insults, which implied the suburban students were intellectually superior to those from the urban school. That incident led to a Hartford-sponsored forum on race, racism and equity.