By Amira Van Leeuwen
HAYS — Comal ISD completed its investigation on Sept. 9 into the allegations that Canyon High School (CHS) students were heard yelling hateful and racial slurs at the Hays High School volleyball players during a varsity game on Sept. 2.
The Hays Free Press received a press release on Sept. 28.
According to the press release, Comal ISD conducted a “thorough investigation” that consisted of reviewing video of the entire game and gathering statements from any individual who may have known what transpired, including:
• The School Resource Officer on duty
• 22 students who were in the student section that evening
• Three parents who were sitting close to the student section
• A line judge on that side of the court
• The administrator on duty
• The CHS cheer coach
• Hays High School coaches
• Students in the locker room hallway after the game
The Hays High School volleyball team traveled to Canyon High School for a volleyball game on Sept. 2, where Canyon students were heard yelling hateful and racial slurs at the Hays players during the varsity game, according to a news release from Hays High School following the event.
Comal ISD also asked Hays CISD to assist them in gathering statements from the volleyball team. According to the press release, Hays CISD provided statements from two of the seven Hays volleyball players who were on the bench in front of the CHS student section, which can be viewed in an online recording of the game during the 45:45 mark.
“As you can see, the chant that was alleged to have been made six times cannot be verified as being seen in the video,” CHS Acting Superintendent Mandy Epley said. “In addition, other than the two statements from the Hays players, none of the other individuals who provided statements reported hearing anyone make the statement, ‘make a play (n-word).’”
The press release also acknowledged the criticism of the actions of the SRO that evening, which stated that according to a Hays parent’s Facebook post, the administrator told the student section to “watch your mouth.” The Hays head coach’s statement asserts that her assistant told the CHS administrator what happened, and she responded, “Oh no, we don’t condone that. I will take care of it.” The video footage shows that the administrator addressed the students at 48:38, about three minutes after the alleged incident occurred.
According to the CHS students, the administrator came to them and asked if they heard anyone saying racial slurs towards the opponent’s bench, to which they answered “no.” The administrator also reminded them that the student section should “always be positive and cheer for our team.”
The press release also addressed claims that the Hays team was accosted in the hallway and the Cougar Den after the game.
“In analyzing video from the school cameras, the Hays team does cross paths with a group of basketball players coming from the basketball locker room. According to student statements, while there is conversation between two groups of students, there is no exchange of racial slurs,” the statement said.
Per the school’s camera footage and a statement from the SRO, there was no interaction between the Hays volleyball team and anyone from CHS as they left the building later that evening.
While the district’s investigation did not find evidence to substantiate the claims that were made, it discovered that a group of three students was having a conversation that involved the use of racial slurs aimed at each other.
The three students were not in association with the students who were accused of making racial chants toward the Hays volleyball team.
“As I have mentioned previously, the District does not tolerate the use of this type of language in any circumstance. As such, the students who were found to have used the derogatory language have all received disciplinary consequences in accordance with the District’s discipline management plan,” Epley said.
According to a Sept. 12 press release, Hays CISD had not been provided with any findings of the Comal ISD internal investigation.
“Because it is Comal ISD’s investigation into its own students, it is their conclusion to make. The Hays CISD inquiry into the matter finds that the Hays High School students are being truthful and have no reason to lie,” the press release said. “The district stands by its students and continues to be proud of the Hays High School volleyball team for being brave and calling out hate and racism.”