CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Parents of volleyball players at Mallard Creek High School reached out to Channel 9 after fans in the student section at Lake Norman High School yelled racist and sexual comments at MCHS players during a match in Mooresville last week.
The chants from the young fans were recorded in a video and uploaded online to "Hudl," a website that features highlights from high school games.
Leaders from both school districts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Iredell-Statesville Schools, investigated the parents' concerns. The superintendents in both districts called the Lake Norman High students' behavior unacceptable.
Audio has since been removed from the highlight reel of the game, but parents can't forget what they heard.
"They were singing the national anthem to the Hispanic-American students on the team, indicating that they're not Americans," Kim McGregor, a player's mom, told Channel 9.
McGregor said the fans also chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A" to students of various ethnic backgrounds.
"We know what was implied was that you are not American," McGregor said.
“Not cheering for their team but cheering to dehumanize us,” her daughter, Sydney McGregor, said Tuesday.
Christine James, another parent, said the sexual comments were especially offensive. Most of the chants were too suggestive for Channel 9 to air on television.
"Immediately after the game, those girls were in tears," James said.
“We were sexualized,” Christine James’ daughter, Payton James, said. “We were picked out individually by our race.”
Raki McGregor, Kim's husband, said their daughter and other players could hear everything that was said, "with clarity."
"It is a highly competitive match," Raki McGregor said. "This went far beyond volleyball."
He and other MCHS parents organized and wrote a letter demanding accountability from students and staff at Lake Norman High School.
"At Mallard Creek, we took action to ensure our girls never experience this moving forward," McGregor said. "It had everything to do with how they were treated and disrespected."
The parents sent their letter to CMS officials, who contacted Iredell-Statesville Schools.
After investigating the parents' concerns, Iredell-Statesville Schools Superintendent Brady Johnson responded in a letter addressed to CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox.
"Students at Lake Norman High School did actively and aggressively target players from Mallard Creek High School," Johnson said.
"We were also able to confirm that racial, ethnic and other inappropriate remarks, including personal attacks on individual players, were part of the misconduct on the part of our students," Johnson added.
In the letter, the superintendent offered "our sincere apology" for the behavior.
"We were not good hosts and did an extremely poor job of making Mallard Creek's students, parents and staff feel welcomed and safe on our campus," Johnson said.
The district has taken action in response to the complaints from Mallard Creek and CMS.
Students who led the chants were disciplined, Johnson said, although he didn't explain how.
Students, coaches and school administrators were all required to participate in sportsmanship training.
"In addition, Principal Keith Gentle addressed this matter with the entire student body this week," Johnson added.
A district spokesperson emailed Channel 9 a statement from Principal Gentle Tuesday afternoon.
"Lake Norman High School is using this incident as an opportunity for a teachable moment for our kids," Gently said. "Spirit means pulling for and supporting your own team, not disparaging the opponent."
Parents believe more of the students involved should be disciplined, and that the volleyball team should face consequences from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.
As of Tuesday evening, the NCHSAA did not respond to Channel 9's questions about whether the organization, which regulates high school sports, would get involved.
Raki McGregor said he does not believe the actions already taken at Lake Norman High School do enough to address the problem.
"We appreciate the response they provided," McGregor said. "We think it falls short."
CMS released a statement Tuesday, supporting the MCHS parents. The statement read, in part:
"The behaviors exhibited by some Lake Norman High School students targeting CMS volleyball student-athletes are unacceptable in the broader LNHS community and by several standards, including a variety of rules and regulations governing scholastic athletic events, CMS core values, Board of Education Multiculturalism policy IFC, and our shared community’s values for diversity and respect of all our residents."
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