Investigation finds no evidence that Baldwin City students aimed racist remarks at Piper athletes

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Just over a month ago, FOX4 reported about accusations of racism by Baldwin City students against African-American volleyball players from Piper High School.

Players and coaches on the Piper girl's volleyball team said they heard Baldwin City students making monkey noises and telling Piper players to, "go back where they came from," during a game on Oct. 8 in Baldwin City.

The Baldwin City Board of Education asked for an outside investigation into the allegations, and the report is complete.

"They could not find any evidence to say that happened," Baldwin City Superintendent Paul Dorathy said.

The Kansas Association of School Boards concluded Piper volleyball players heard noise from the crowd and interpreted it as racially charged.

"I think it's unfortunate that this occurred," Dorathy said. "I believe that we will use it as a lesson to learn from, that people interpret and see things differently, and because of that, occasionally allegations like this will occur."

Candice Byers, who had two daughters playing for Piper High School that night, said she's disgusted by the findings. She said the investigation is flawed.

"What matters to me is how my daughters came home and how distraught they were, and even the other girls as well, and even the coach," Byers said. "I talked to the coach, and the coach heard it, and she was just in disbelief of what she heard."

According to the Baldwin City Board of Education, 49 witnesses were involved in  the investigation.

Piper Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Blane McCann said, although players, coaches and administrators were available, investigators spoke to only three witnesses from Piper.

In a statement, McCann said:

"Today, a statement from Baldwin USD 348 was issued regarding an incident that occurred at a volleyball match between Piper High School and Baldwin High School. Piper students reported hearing racially charged comments directed toward them. The statement from Baldwin indicates investigators spoke to dozens of Baldwin students, staff, and parents.

"While Piper did decline the opportunity to co-sponsor the KASB investigation, the district did offer the investigators access to our players, coaches and administrators as needed to complete the investigations. Investigators spoke to only three Piper students and their guardians but failed to speak to any other Piper parents, coaches or athletic director as to their version of events at the contest.

"From my perspective, I stand with the students of Piper and support their version of events and feel enough is enough. This is at least the fourth instance within the last three years of our students being subjected to racially charged comments while participating in student activities and athletic events at various schools. We are proud of our students in their resilience through extremely difficult situations that young people should never have to face.

"As a society, we can no longer allow people to make excuses for unacceptable behavior that is disrespectful and dismissive of certain groups.  Piper USD 203 students and staff will continue to treat people with respect and dignity going forward as we seek to maintain and improve our own district’s culture."

The investigation information comes from this news release put out by the Baldwin City Board of Education:

"As a result of the allegations levied against Baldwin high school students at the October 8th volleyball match with Piper High School, the USD 348 Board of Education directed that an independent investigation be conducted by an attorney from the Kansas Association of School Boards. USD 203 declined our invitation to co­sponsor [sic] the independent investigation.

"The outside investigation consisted of reviewing 20 written statements from Baldwin students at the game, 13 written statements from Baldwin staff and parents at the game, four written statements from individuals on the floor working the game, 12 in­ person [sic] interviews including three Piper High School Volleyball Players and their guardians. The investigator visited the gym where the volleyball match was played. Video footage of the varsity volleyball game was reviewed, along with security camera footage of the walkway from the gymnasium to the parking lot for the time relevant to this investigation.

"The investigator concluded that Piper volleyball players heard crowd noises during the second set and interpreted those noises as racially charged. That is, noises were in fact made during the course of the game and the players’ interpretations of these noises were racially charged.

"However, the investigator also concluded that there was no evidence to support the allegation that the Baldwin student section created racially charged chants or noises during the second set or at any point during or after the volleyball game. There was not any evidence to support the Piper players’ contention that the noises were “monkey” noises. Yet, a Piper student did make noises similar to that of a “monkey” during the third set of this match. However, these noises cannot be heard during the second set when the allegations occurred.

"After the game, there was an incident between some Baldwin students and Piper players as they exited the gymnasium. A Piper player misinterpreted what the Baldwin students were talking about and then confronted the students. The two groups were separated by a Baldwin staff member. The Baldwin students went to their respective vehicles and the Piper players went to their bus as evidenced from security camera footage overlooking the area. The Piper players were not followed to their bus."

FOX4 requested a copy of the investigation report, and Baldwin City Board of Education president rejected our request saying, "Due to attorney client privilege, the report will not be released."

Dorathy said Baldwin Schools will try to continue to work with Piper to make sure its students feel welcome at Baldwin and hopes the same for his students, so the schools can continue to play together.

"I understand the report might not have come out exactly how they may have wanted to see it, but at the same time, I think we need to move on and be better for everything that we've done here," Dorathy said.

FOX4 has been in touch with and reached out to many Baldwin City parents, but none of them agreed to an interview for this story.

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