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VHSL working to address hate speech in high school athletics

VHSLThe Virginia High School League adopted a policy in 2018 requiring players who use racial slurs to be ejected from the contest immediately and serve a one-game suspension.

The penalty has not only not curbed the behavior, according to a report from the VHSL on Wednesday, but actually, the number of incidents seems to be on the increase.

In April, a VHSL Sportsmanship Committee heard a case involving accusations of racial expressions used by players in a football game. In its final determination, the Sportsmanship Committee recommended the VHSL review data relative to incidents involving race and review the VHSL Handbook regarding cultural diversity and VHSL expectations.

The VHSL created an Ad Hoc Committee to address the recommendations of the Sportsmanship Committee.

The Ad Hoc Committee, VHSL, and Executive Committee took the following actions.

  • The VHSL engaged with VDOE’s equity team to offer a webinar titled What’s Culture Got to Do With It?: Cultural Competence in Athletics to help bring awareness to cultural awareness. That presentation took place on June 3. The webinar recordingis on the Virginia Department of Education’s YouTube Channel, and Virginia is for Learners website.
  • The VHSL will be working with officials associations and our Coaches Education Program to develop a mechanism to provide ongoing training relative to cultural diversity and equity. For the current year, officials must complete the NFHS Implicit Bias course as part of their training.
  • Once the Virginia Board of Education releases guidance on Cultural Competency Training for Teachers and Other Licensed School Board Employees, the VHSL will develop a course required for all high school coaches, not just licensed teachers.
  • In August, the VHSL staff worked with Dr. Tomika Ferguson to develop a three-session mini-course “Culturally Responsive Leadership in High School Sports.” The course provided VHSL stakeholders with an opportunity to learn terminology related to equitable and inclusive leadership practices, social, historical, and contemporary experiences shaping high school sports in Virginia. In addition, to better understand how policies, organizational practices, and individual behavior influence high school sports school athletic environments. The three-sessions were 1) Recognition and Identity, 2) Inclusive Environments and Practices, and 3) Culturally Responsive Policies and Organizations.
  • To assist school principals, athletic directors, and school staff in better understanding VHSL rules and regulations, the League staff conducts area meetings to review key policies and clarify the responsibilities of administrators and coaches. Attendance is mandatory for all member schools. During this year’s Area Meetings held in July and August, VHSL staff addressed the issue of racial slurs and hate speech being used during competitions and shared the work being done by the Equity and Diversity Ad Hoc Committee.
  • In September, VHSL staff met with Central Office Administrators and a football commissioner from Northern Virginia to develop a Racial Response Protocol for Games template.
  • In October, the VHSL staff hosted a webinar open to all school divisions to share work and ideas being done within school divisions to address culture awareness and equity issues.
  • At the Oct. 14 Membership Meeting, Dr. Tomika Ferguson presented information and led a discussion on “Strategies for Change” with athletics directors and principals. In this discussion, Dr. Ferguson addressed Appropriate Knowledge, Readiness and Culture, and Prioritization. In addition, Principals and athletic directors from member schools asked questions and shared thoughts about changing the culture at their schools and VHSL activities.
  • The Ad Hoc Committee proposed legislation to the Executive Committee. All three proposals were approved as Emergency Legislation and are in VHSL.

augusta free press
augusta free press