TRENTON – In the wake of recent incidents of alleged student-on-student racism involving school athletes, the Division on Civil Rights and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) have asked educators across the state to redouble their efforts to keep bias out of interscholastic sports.
In a joint letter to New Jersey school principals, Division Director Craig T. Sashihara and NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White reaffirm their commitment to working together to combat bias, and invite school districts to join in “this essential undertaking.”
The letter recalls that, in 2013, the Division and NJSIAA entered into a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with regard to bias activity and student athletic competition.
Under the 2013 MOU, the letter explains, the NJSIAA agreed to amend its by-laws to declare that verbal or physical harassment related to race, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or religion at an NJSIAA-sanctioned event will be deemed a violation of the NJSIAA’s Sportsmanship Rule, and will subject violators to discipline or ejection.
NJSIAA also agreed, among other things, to provide training to game officials to ensure they vigilantly enforce the amended Sportsmanship Rule, provide training to athletes and school officials on the Rule, and warn athletes and spectators at each event that bias-related conduct will not be tolerated. (Consistent with the MOU, officiating crews at NJSIAA sports events now read a statement to team captains before the competition starts, and a similar public statement is read for the benefit of spectators.)
Under the MOU, NJSIAA also amended its by-laws in 2013 to give it authority to require schools, leagues and conferences to investigate and report on incidents of alleged bias to the NJSIAA. The NJSIAA also retained authority to conduct its own investigation and take its own action as well.
Another provision of the MOU specified that NJSIAA would notify the Division on Civil Rights of any reported bias incidents taking place at sanctioned school sporting events. The MOU did not in any way shift jurisdiction to respond to such incidents away from the NJSIAA. It simply provided a mechanism for the Division to be looped in on reported bias incidents, and to review relevant information.
In their letter, Director Sashihara and Executive Director White state that, while the 2013 MOU was groundbreaking, “even the best initiatives can benefit from being reaffirmed from time to time.”
“Particularly in light of recent events,” they state in the letter “it is important that you join us in sending a message to the public, to student-athletes, and to parents, coaches and all other stakeholders that we are united in our commitment to upholding the tenets of acceptance, civility and good sportsmanship, and to keeping bias and hate out of interscholastic athletics.”
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