‘Gangsta night’ theme at Windsor High School basketball game draws backlash, discussion

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The district said it will require students to get pre-approval for future themed events. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — A themed night at a Windsor High School boys basketball game is sparking community outcry. Students at the game on Dec. 7 imitated certain Black stereotypes, donning durags, chains and low-hanging pants. Others appear to be flashing gang signs. All the students in the photos appear to be white.

Windsor Superintendent Jason Andrews said it’s a tradition for students to organize different theme nights, ranging from school spirit night to breast cancer awareness. But he said themes that seek to imitate or mock another culture are inappropriate.

“I think we had students that didn’t realize that what they were doing was inappropriate and that’s just not okay,” Andrews said.

Andrews said the school has held diversity and inclusion programs in the past. But he said this event makes clear those programs may not be enough.

Andrews said the school has since reprimanded some of the students and will implement new policies to prevent repeat issues. The school also removed a public YouTube video of the game, citing privacy concerns.

Andrews said the event also sparked a larger discussion.

“I’ve had conversations with parents and community members that think that not enough is being done,” Andrews said. “I have had contact from parents and community members that think that the school is — and I in particular – am overreacting.”

Andrews said issues like cultural stereotyping can be polarizing, especially in rural communities like Windsor.

According to state data, Windsor’s high school is 92% white, but Andrews said the district is getting more diverse. The district recently hired its first Black coach this year, who spoke out online against the event.

Andrews said it’s important for students to know that mimicking or making light of another culture is not ok.