Bismarck basketball players’ parents file a federal complaint after racist taunts were directed at their kids

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 5:48 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - High school athletics bring up friendly competition, but what happens when the comments made are racist taunts? Your News Leader spoke with the lawyer for kids’ families to whom racist taunts were directed at a basketball game earlier this year between Bismarck High School and Jamestown High School students.

In January, student-athletes from Bismarck High School experienced racial taunts at a basketball game against Jamestown. Savannah Alkire and Quinn Austin, parents of Andre Austin, and Kate and Lance Eaglestaff, parents of Teysean Eaglestaff, filed a complaint against the Jamestown Public School District, but the families and their lawyer feel they didn’t do enough.

“The school district did an investigation. That investigation was completed a couple of months ago and the families are unhappy with the results of that investigation. They don’t think the students and the administrator involved had been held appropriately accountable,” said Tim Purdon, lawyer.

Now the families have taken a further step and filed a complaint with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

“The parents’ goal in this situation from the very beginning has been twofold. They want to see accountability at the Jamestown Public School District for the people who were involved in racially abusing their children. This is not a ‘he said, she said’ situation. This is documented. The N-word was used. Student-athletes, children were told to go back to the reservation,” said Purdon.

The families say they’ve reached out to North Dakota High School Activities Association to talk about the incident but have not been able to set a meeting about policy changes.

“We need to see new policies to make sure this sort of horrible thing doesn’t happen again,” said Purdon.

They said during the investigation with Jamestown Public Schools they were cooperative when asked for input from the families, but they feel the conclusion of just disciplinary action was unacceptable.

“They’d like to see a change to ensure that native voices are heard here, specifically that there’s a spot for reservation schools on the board at the North Dakota High School Activities Association,” said Purdon.

The superintendent for Jamestown Public Schools said on May 24 that they have not received complaints from the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and could not comment at this time.

Your News Leader did not hear back from the North Dakota High School Activities Association after asking for a statement at this time.