A Wisconsin school district is standing by its decision to suspend two black basketball players because the signals they were making with their hands looked gang-related, saying that proper procedure was followed, the Raw Story reports.
It all started at the beginning of the month when a local newspaper, the Sheboygan Falls News, ran what was supposed to be an upbeat story about three brothers, Jordan, Jamal and Juwaun Jackson, who moved to the district and now play basketball with Sheboygan Falls High School. As is normal, the paper did a mini photo-shoot for the article, and ultimately the decision was made to publish a "goofy" picture of the boys fooling around in their team’s uniform, making gestures with their hands.
However, things didn’t end up well for the boys. The high school suspended two of the brothers because parents who saw the story in the sports section of the paper thought the boys were making gang signs. The police department was even called in to investigate at the school’s request, the Raw Story notes.
"I did it like every other kid does it when they make a three [pointer]," Jordan Jackson explained to TMJ News. "When you make a three, everyone does this sign. You’ve probably seen LeBron James or someone do it. I did the three in the picture, and my little brother pointed at the camera.
"I had no idea, they told us it meant blood," he said referring to infamous Bloods gang.
Jean Born, the district superintendent, is sticking firm to the decision, saying that the school followed the athletic code. Police Chief Steve Riffel claimed that he was "able to confirm that the sign was indeed a gang sign," even though he admitted the boys weren’t a threat.
The Sheboygan Falls News is siding with the boys on this issue, shocked at the mess the article has caused, expressing their disappointment in the school.
"The sign made by Jordan Jackson (on the far left side of the photo) is also commonly used by NBA players, such as James Harden, Lebron James and Brandon Jennings, after making a three-point shot," the paper’s editor, Jeff Pederson, wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. "The good intentions surrounding a positive article about high school student-athletes adjusting to a new school and contributing to an SFHS sports program has somehow taken an ugly turn.
"We are disappointed and saddened by the negative reaction and subsequent outcome, which has resulted in two high school basketball players being forced to miss a game against the team’s biggest rival," he added. "In my 20 years in mainly small-town newspaper journalism, I have fielded plenty of complaints from readers. However, I have never seen anything published in a paper I have been a part of escalate to this very unfortunate and negative magnitude."
The ACLU of Wisconsin has also stepped up in the boys’ defense, saying that they will be investigating the case themselves.
"It appears as if the Sheboygan Falls school district and police department are unprepared to respond to the increasing diversity in the schools in an appropriate and educationally sound manner," ACLU Executive Director Chris Ahmuty said, according to the Raw Story. "The ACLU will be seeking information from the schools in order to assess their compliance with pupil non-discrimination rules. The ACLU asks the district to immediately make the brothers eligible to play in tomorrow’s game."
Read more at the Raw Story.