CINCINNATI – Principal Kurt Ruffing and several students from Elder High School apologized to their counterparts at St. Xavier Monday and promised to turn a new leaf after an ugly episode during a basketball game at Elder Feb. 2.
None of the Elder students disciplined for shouting racist chants at several St. Xavier basketball players from the student cheering section was in the group that traveled to St. Xavier, Ruffing said.
Afterward, Ruffling called it a “stepping stone, not an overnight cure.”
“Unfortunate as it is, I look at this as a growth experience. Maybe we can help society with this,” Ruffing said.
LISTEN to the chants here. WARNING: The videos below contain offensive language.
The Elder traveling party consisted of two basketball players and seven other students. Ruffing said they met with 24 St. Xavier basketball players from the varsity and junior varsity teams and the teens had lunch together apart from Ruffing and St. Xavier Principal Terrence Tyrrell.
“All the students talked about where they went to grade school, what year they’re currently in and if they’re a senior, where they plan on going to college and that went right into eating lunch. So, at that time, the students were by themselves,” Ruffing said.
Ruffing said Elder administrators have had several meetings with the student body since the incident to emphasize that the chants were unacceptable and would not be tolerated. In the aftermath, Ruffling said, one Elder student came forward and admitted his guilt.
“We did have one student that stepped up because he said he felt bad after thinking about it — which I admire him — and hopefully these kids will learn from it,” the Elder principal said.
Ruffing said Elder has established a new policy for cheering during games.
“The very first row will be no students other than the approved cheerleaders,” he said. “Those cheerleaders will be picked by our student council moderators, who will then also guide them through what are appropriate cheers. Then, even further, I told our students if any cheers are originated from the student cheering section area, then those students will the removed from the student cheering section with consequences to follow.”
Ruffing said cheering should be positive for your team, not negative against your opponent.
“This is about cheering for your school — not cheering against the other school — and that’s something I want to emphasize,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to respecting other people — treating them as how we want to be treated ourselves — and let’s go there to cheer for Elder or cheer for St. X. and not downgrade another school, other individuals.”
Tyrrell said the students and adminstrators had “a great meeting” and St. X accepted Elder’s apology.
“Kurt apologized to our students, which we certainly appreciated, and then we talked about moving forward,” Tyrrell said. “We certainly forgive Elder, but we also don’t want to tolerate the behavior.”
Tyrrell said he hoped the goal is ‘to make sure this doesn’t happen again and, more importantly, to educate our students on respecting human dignity and individuals and loving and caring for each other.”
Tyrrell said principals from all area Catholic high schools would meet next week and discuss what steps to take.
“We take great pride in what we do as Catholic schools educating students around principles of Jesus Christ, so how can we move forward?” Tyrrell said. “What are actions so if, God forbid, this happens in the future? What can we do from the referees to the coaches to the administration to make sure that we stop it?
“These things have probably always been going on and now our parents, students, faculty, staff and administrators are saying we’re not going to tolerate that. That’s the key word here. We want people to forgive, but we’re not going to tolerate it.”