The Roosevelt School District has accused both Wantagh and Lynbrook students of engaging in racist behavior in sports games in February, and has filed a notice of claim against both school districts for apparently failing to respond appropriately.
Roosevelt, which is being represented by attorney Frederick K. Brewington, alleges similar behavior from both Wantagh and Lynbrook.
The claim against Lynbrook is that — according to both a news release and the notice of claim put out by Roosefelt USFD — at a basketball game on February 15, members of the Lynbrook High School crowd spit on, barked at, and yelled racial epithets at Roosevelt High School cheerleaders. According to Roosevelt officials, Lynbrook High School supervisory personnel were in attendance, but did nothing to stop the behavior.
Roosevelt’s claims against Wantagh allegedly took place only two days later on February 17 at Wantagh High School. The claim is similar — the pro-Wantagh crowd apparently yelled the N-word and yelled, “who’s your daddy?” at the Roosevelt cheer team, according to that same news release and notice of claim. Additionally, Roosevelt claims that when their basketball team was introduced, a large group of young white men in white T-shirts stood up in the bleachers and physically turned away from the team. When the game was over, the Wantagh crowd appeared to rush onto the court and accosted the Roosevelt players.
“This photograph is a picture of the bleachers, or stands at the Wantagh gymnasium,” Brewington said, of the picture on display at a May 4 news conference. “This depicts a number of individuals from what we see on these on this photograph appear to be all young white men in largely white outfits — some of them have black on— turn their backs on the game.”
At the news conference a video was shown that, indeed, appears to show a group of white males running onto the court and forming a mob, with someone close to the camera saying “this is unsafe.”
“The crowd created a mob like environment that was uncontrolled,” the notice of claim reads. “Based on reports, the large group of young white men dressed in the white shirts was a coordinated effort between Lynbrook and Wantagh and included students from both schools in an enterprise aimed at intimidating, threatening, demeaning, and disrespecting the Roosevelt students based on race and color.”
“One of the things we’re going to go after is text messages, and Instagram and all that,” Brewington said. “All those things that are going to show that there was messaging going on between young people between those two schools. I don’t know that for a fact, but I surely anticipate that.”
Roosevelt says that these events were in violation of the coaches’ rules and regulations of Section VIII, the governing body for Nassau County of the state’s Public High School Activities Association. Brewington also alleges that Section VIII officials did nothing to stop these incidents.
“Section will follow our policy and process for complaints of this nature,” Patrick Pizzarelli, the executive director of Section VIII athletics, said. “It is now in the lawyers’ hands.”
The notice of claim is essentially to let Wantagh and Lynbrook know that they plan to take this to court if appropriate action is not taken.
“The next step is — I’m expecting and hoping — that there’s a phone call saying ‘we need to really sit down, we’re willing to work it out, we are sorry that we made this happen,’ because you did you allow it to happen,” Brewington added.
Neither the Lynbrook nor the Wantagh School Districts responded to a request for comment, due to the pending litigation. While no parent in Wantagh wished to speak to the Herald on the record, a few have claimed that the picture and video were taken out of context, and that the back-turning was not racist and happens at every game. They have also claimed that the “mob” was just a celebratory action after the game was over.
“We want our students to be healthy mentally, physically, and spiritually,” Deborah Wortham, superintendent of Roosevelt, said. “We want them to be safe. We want to support them in every situation. We want our students to be engaged, to get challenged. Today, it is our intent to change the picture for our students, and to put it in a new frame.”