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MSHSL briefs House lawmakers on plan to tackle racism, harassment at school sporting events

(Image courtesy Minnesota State High School League)
(Image courtesy Minnesota State High School League)

Racism and harassment in school activities cannot occur. That message was conveyed by Erich Martens, executive director of the Minnesota State High School League, to the House Education Policy Committee Monday.

He shared details of a new league initiative to improve behavior at high school events, as well as schools in general.

“It is critical that our schools, our programs, and our events be safe, welcoming, and inclusive,” he said. “Every student should have a place in our schools and in activities, and their involvement should be free from behaviors that are intended to harm, marginalize, insult, or offend. There’s no place in our schools or in our programs and contests for racial harm to take place through taunts, threats, or any other behavior.”

The league, a nonprofit association that provides service, leadership, and extra-curricular opportunities to more than 500 member schools, is working with schools, including elementary and middle schools, to address behavior issues, and with victims to provide support. It is collaborating with other professional educational bodies to curb harassment of any kind and impose consequences on offenders.

The league plans to help student groups develop, teach and enforce a model code of conduct, which would include all aspects of participation in activities as well as at school. It would extend to spectators, staff, students, and parents. Providing access and resources to educators to help them plan, prepare and implement best practices to eliminate harmful behaviors also is part of the program.

“Being prepared is the first step,” Martens said.

When asked about contacting victims, Martens said league representatives are reaching out, particularly to different ethnic and racial groups to have a dialogue.


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