Penn Hills refuses to play Kiski Area sports teams this spring over alleged racial taunts

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Wednesday, March 9, 2022 | 3:38 PM


Penn Hills won’t play games against Kiski Area teams this spring because of racial taunts allegedly made by fans during a recent middle school volleyball game.

In a letter sent Monday to school district families and staff, Penn Hills superintendent Nancy Hines said “several boys” in the Kiski Area student section “were making monkey noises and saying derogatory things to our team” during a game March 2. Each district investigated the allegations.

Hines said the report she received from Kiski Area indicated the district found no eyewitness accounts or video footage to corroborate the allegations. However, she said each of the seven players interviewed by Penn Hills administration “remains clear about what she saw and heard last week during the volleyball match.”

The schools are scheduled to play five times this spring at various levels in baseball and softball. The games include varsity and junior varsity baseball March 30, varsity softball April 8 and 29, and middle school softball April 6 and May 4.

Hines said Penn Hills won’t play.

“Unfortunately, we have no guarantee that this stand taken by (Penn Hills School District) will not cost our spring athletic teams a playoff berth,” Hines said. “However, it seems more important in this moment that we stand together and support the young women of our Linton volleyball team. Our spring head coaches have agreed that demonstrating unity and a lived commitment to human decency is more important than wins and losses.”

In a short statement, Kiski Area superintendent Misty Slavic said the district’s investigation wasn’t complete and expressed disappointment in Penn Hills’ decision.

“The Kiski Area School District is surprised and saddened by the Penn Hills superintendent’s decision to cancel the remaining games of the spring sports season, especially since the investigation is ongoing,” Slavic said. “Kiski Area School District takes all accusations made against the district seriously. The allegations against our spectators at a recent middle school volleyball game are under active investigation. At this time, we cannot confirm that the reported incident occurred. However, we will continue to review all statements and evidence as they become available and work collaboratively with the Penn Hills administration to resolve the conflict.”

While Kiski Area found no evidence of the taunts, Hines said Kiski’s report did find that one student “made a remark about one of our player’s choice of hairstyle.”

In years past, Penn Hills has attended hearings before the WPIAL board to handle allegations of racial slurs or insensitivity, but Hines said the district won’t pursue that route this time. If there were a hearing, Hines said, she didn’t believe the WPIAL would impose discipline beyond “sensitivity training.”

She said Penn Hills’ experience with the WPIAL board was not “a positive one and leads me to believe this option will likely introduce more trauma to this group of young women who were afraid to speak out in the moment and to be the cause for an interruption to the game.”

WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said the league encourages schools to resolve issues themselves when possible and considers hearings only a secondary resort. Scheuneman said the WPIAL has reached out to Penn Hills to discuss the situation.

“Right now it’s between the schools to try to work it out,” said Scheuneman. “Obviously, we don’t want to see anybody not play anybody. We want things to be worked out.”

Scheuneman said under PIAA rules, if a team refuses to play an opponent, that game is recorded as a forfeit.

“As part of the PIAA bylaws, there are potential penalties for voluntary forfeit,” Scheuneman said. “I said potential, because the board would have to review the information as they did during covid. … The board would have to determine if there was just cause for that forfeit.”

Chris Harlan is a TribLive reporter covering sports. He joined the Trib in 2009 after seven years as a reporter at the Beaver County Times. He can be reached at charlan@triblive.com.

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