St. Louis Park to play New Prague again after racist incident addressed
St. Louis Park High School leaders have agreed to resume athletic competition against New Prague as the latter takes significant steps to change the culture of its school district.
Concerns raised in February about racist behavior towards male hockey players at St. Louis Park led to the cancellation of athletic competition against New Prague for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year – a decision drama that captured statewide attention.
Earlier this month, New Prague High School leaders released a “School Climate Update” slideshow outlining actions taken, work underway and plans to “work with students, staff, parents and leaders communities for positive change”.
Andy Ewald, director of activities at St. Louis Park High School, said he and other principals have reviewed the information and are “cautiously optimistic” about the game’s statement. Both schools are members of the Metro West Conference.
“We’re not holding our breath and think it’s just a matter of when it happens again,” Ewald said. “I really believe they took our concerns seriously.”
Robbinsdale Cooper had also called off New Prague games, citing racist taunts at the women’s basketball team, which includes athletes of color. New Prague headteachers said an investigation could not substantiate claims that its fans made monkey noises during a February 15 game in New Prague, about 45 miles south -west of Minneapolis.
Cooper has since left the Metro West Conference, along with Bloomington Kennedy, for the Tri-Metro Conference. The move had been planned for several years, according to a Cooper spokesperson.
Prague’s new superintendent, Tim Dittberner, said his district hopes to “turn a negative situation into a positive one” through the work outlined in the school climate update.
A 25-member working group made up of students, staff, administration, school board, parents, and community members held three 90-minute meetings from April through June. Three other meetings are planned from September to November.
“We’re not holding our breath and think it’s just a matter of when it happens again. I really believe they took our concerns seriously.
An equity summit was held in June for school district staff and administration, and a fall workshop is planned with district equity coordinator Termaine Fulton with a two-hour interactive presentation on equity and inclusion.
Additionally, all high school sports teams and groups will have a pre-season discussion with Fulton, the Director of Activities and the coaching staff in the area of equity and inclusion.
“It’s not just more talk,” Dittberner said. “The real sign will be how people act and treat each other.”
Ewald, who said the New Prague banner will return to the gymnasium wall at St. Louis Park High School, hopes the ongoing work “will have an impact to change hearts and minds.”
“We have to model what we expect from others,” he said.