Janesville Parker officials apologize over inappropriate student spirit dress-up theme

JANESVILLE, Wis. — Janesville school officials have apologized to the Beloit Memorial High School community following what they described as an inappropriate student dress-up theme during the schools’ girls basketball game last week.

In a letter addressed to Memorial students, staff members and the basketball team, Janesville Parker High School officials said students, who usually choose a dress-up theme for games “as a way to encourage spirit, participation and camaraderie,” realized the theme was inappropriate but some students still dressed up in that theme.

A copy of the letter, dated Monday and signed by Parker Principal Chris Laue, Athletic Director Clayton Kreger, head girls basketball coach Ryan Tyrrell and the team, did not specify what about the theme was inappropriate.

“With respect to the theme initially chosen for that particular game, we have learned that student organizers realized its inappropriateness, and made attempts to change the theme prior to the game. Unfortunately, some of our students still opted to dress in a manner that was unacceptable and in poor taste,” the letter read in part.

Beloit players who spoke with News 3 Now said Parker students showed up dressed in outfits mocking Black culture in what they believe was meant to make fun of Beloit’s diverse community.

“I don’t think their goal was to hurt us, it was just seen as funny to them,” Mandi Franks, Memorial’s team captain, said.

Franks and Brenazjh Davis, another team captain, said students wore white tank tops and baggy clothing for the “gangster” dress-up theme. One student allegedly showed up wearing a bulletproof vest.

“They were purposely doing the theme and they knew what was behind the theme so they didn’t really care about how we felt,” Davis said.

While both players were hurt by what they saw, neither were stunned. In fact, they said it wasn’t the first time their school has been a target for student section themes.

Regardless, they want the behavior to end, adding they’re proud of how their team handled the situation.

“I really hope that everyone takes this as an opportunity to teach themselves and others on why this was hurtful to us,” Franks said.

Janesville’s letter said the school will use the incident as a teaching opportunity and that moving forward teams and administrators will work together to make sure a similar incident does not happen again.

Beloit’s athletic director, Joel Beard, thanked Janesville officials for reaching out and acknowledging the incident.

“I think that’s the first step, that we acknowledge that there was a problem with the student section,” he said.

The full letter reads:

Dear Beloit Memorial High School Students, Staff and Girls Basketball Team,

Please accept our apologies for the hurt that was caused by some of our students at last week’s Parker- Beloit girls basketball game.

Our students typically choose spectator themes for the games as a way to encourage spirit, participation and camaraderie. With respect to the theme initially chosen for that particular game, we have learned that student organizers realized its inappropriateness, and made attempts to change the theme prior to the game. Unfortunately, some of our students still opted to dress in a manner that was unacceptable and in poor taste.

While we cannot go back and undo the behavior of some of our students that evening, we can and will use this as a teaching and learning opportunity. As a follow up, we will continue to have discussions with our student body about how to best create an atmosphere that is welcoming and tolerant. Teams will also be working with administration to ensure that spectator theme nights are in line with our values and create a welcoming environment for all.

We are hopeful that we will be able to move forward and continue to maintain the level of sportsmanship and collegiality that our schools have seen in the past.

Sincerely,

Chris Laue, PHS Principal
Clayton Kreger, PHS Athletic Director
Ryan Tyrrell, PHS Head Girls Basketball Coach

Janesville Parker Girls Basketball Team