IHSAA investigating claims of racism at girls' semi-state game

Bedford North Lawrence students dressed in a "safari" theme for their game against Lawrence North.
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The Indiana High School Athletic Association is investigating allegations of racist taunting at a girls' semi-state basketball game over the weekend.

The players say they were offended, but he school hosting the game says the charges are overblown.

It was a classic match-up - No. 1 vs. No. 2. Top-ranked Lawrence North headed to Bedford to play second-ranked Bedford North Lawrence.

They expected a tough game, but they didn't expect to see an opposing student in a gorilla suit. The student in the suit took it off after Lawrence North complained, but that wasn't the end of it.

"Then, like, the student section was really rude and, like, anytime we did anything, they were calling us 'disrespectful' or 'ratchet' for no reason. Flat out no reason," said Lawrence North player Peyton Stewart.

Lawrence North is an all-African American team, Bedford North Lawrence is mostly white. But Bedford North Lawrence Principal Roger Dean says his students meant no harm, that the pep club chose a safari theme for the game because the Lawrence North mascot is a wildcat.

"You know, 'Cage the Wildcats,' or whatever," Dean said. "It's just a good, clean rivalry between two schools. Evidently, someone misconstrued that."

But the Lawrence North players say there was no misconstruing the racially-charged comments from the student section.

"They were, like, trying to say we were from Gary. They were, like, 'Go back to Gary,' because a lot of ghetto black people are from there," said Lawrence North player Autumn Jones.

Dean says he didn't hear any racist slurs and says his students just wanted to create school spirit - not to offend.

"There was never any intent of a racial theme involved with that. It was just simply based on their school mascot," he said.

The IHSAA will not comment on the investigation. Lawrence North is also questioning why Bedford North Lawrence was allowed to host a semi-state game, but the IHSAA says playoff sites are chosen before the season begins.

Bedford North Lawrence won the game, 62-54, and will face Penn Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute for the Class 4A state championship.