“Why do we have to be the bigger person all the time?” Oberlin High School students asked superintendent David Hall.
The question was posed during an ongoing investigation into inappropriate behavior at a Phoenix boys basketball game against Fairview Park.
The Warriors student section allegedly made racial slurs, vulgar insults, and threats of lynching during the game, sending the cheer squad off the court in tears.
“I almost cried at the end when I was talking to them because my heart felt out for them,” Hall said. He called the basketball team and cheerleaders into his office the following Monday morning to discuss what happened.
The students questioned why they have to constantly walk away and be mature when they are called certain hurtful words.
“Even as an adult, these things happen,” Hall told them. “It’s not just going to stop now and unfortunately with the society we live in, you may have to run across this again, but it’s how you react toward it that is going to determine who you are.”
Athletic director John Carter said the rowdy behavior began during the first quarter. A Phoenix player went to the free-throw line and two handwritten signs shot up in the stands.
The player told Hall that reading the signs, which referenced criminal charges he faced, was hard because “he’s trying to move on to a different place in his life.”
Fairview Park administrators eventually confiscated the signs and Carter moved to sit between the student section and Oberlin’s cheer squad.
He said he did not hear any racial comments, but that “it was a very hostile environment that could have been controlled better.”
“It was unnecessary and inappropriate to single out certain individuals,” Carter said. “It got more personal than it needed to be.”
A few minutes into the third quarter, Fairview Park’s student section tried to create a chant in reference to a legal situation an Oberlin player is currently facing. This upset the cheerleaders who were then escorted off the court by police.
Fairview Park police Lt. Paul Shepherd said toward the middle of the game, school officials requested additional officers be present to make sure everyone got home safely.
No arrests were made but one Oberlin student was taken into the hallway.
The chants were not racial in nature, Shepherd said, and no crime was committed.
Fairview superintendent Bill Wagner said he received a video of two Oberlin female students pushing and punching students in Fairview’s cheering section.
Hall said the students are not from Oberlin. He requested the entire video from the game, but was provided a short clip without audio.
Extra administrators will now be sent to away games, Hall said. An anti-hate and tolerance assembly was organized at the high school in the aftermath.
“We want our students to know their side was heard and it was not swept under a rug,” he said.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.