Topeka, Valley Center school districts release joint statement as investigation into inappropriate behavior continues

The district canceled classes Wednesday following online threats connected to inappropriate comments made at a basketball game with Topeka High School.
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 12:39 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The superintendents from the Topeka and Valley Center school districts released a joint statement on Wednesday following reports of inappropriate behavior over the weekend at a basketball game between Topeka High School and Valley Center High School.

In the statement, Dr. Tiffany Anderson of Topeka Public Schools and Dr. Cory Gibson of Valley Center Schools said they are “working jointly to address the issues and uncover the facts about what occurred so that inaccurate information and rumors are not circulated.”

Valley Center Schools canceled classes on Wednesday as a result of online threats and police were called in to investigate.

In the joint release, both superintendents said they are communicating as well as the principals at both high schools and “have the best interests of each other’s students and communities at heart.”

Read the full statement below:

As both districts work in a unified manner to investigate matters related to the athletic events on Saturday, we as superintendents are both committed to ensuring a safe and respectful climate at school events. Incidents that occurred when individuals did not conduct themselves in ways that reflect our commitment to supporting students have been handled, and there are investigations that are ongoing. We will work together to ensure the appropriate individuals are held accountable and work together to prevent such incidents in the future. It’s important all parties allow for investigations to occur and that we model for students ways to address adversity when it arises. As superintendents, we are working jointly to address the issues and uncover the facts about what occurred so that inaccurate information and rumors are not circulated. The incident that occurred is concerning and we both need community support and grace to allow us to complete the investigation.

We are continuing discussions between the principals and superintendents as we investigate the issues. We do not support or condone violence or any language or behavior that promotes violence and we both remain prepared to hold individuals accountable if threatening language or behavior is displayed disrupting the school environment.

Thank you for allowing the districts to work together to fully investigate matters and address the issues in cooperation with the athletic association. Be assured that we both have the best interests of each other’s students and communities at heart in our conversations and decisions.

Sincerely,

Dr. Tiffany Anderson Dr. Cory Gibson

Superintendent of Schools Superintendent of Schools

Topeka Public Schools Valley Center Schools

Wednesday, 12 News spoke with a couple members of the Valley Center High School dance team who stood near the student section during Saturday’s game. The teens said they are “shocked” and “overwhelmed” by how an unfortunate situation escalated, with representatives of both schools at fault.

Annalise Heilman and Lexi Benson said the game was tense and emotions were running high when a student from their school crossed the line. They reported hearing the student use the “N” word before an administrator escorted the student from the student section.

“I heard it and I turned to my friend and said, ‘did you hear that?’ And she said, ‘yeah,’” Benson said. “It definitely doesn’t reflect the entire student body. I know that’s something I wouldn’t say. I don’t hang around people who say things like that. I know there are students who do say it, but that’s their choice, not mine.”

Heilman and Benson said they didn’t hear any racial slurs from anyone else at the game. They said they also were shocked by a vulgar chant directed toward a Topeka player as he shot a free throw. Audio from widely-shared footage from the game picks up that chant from the Valley Center student section.

As the superintendents for the Valley Center and Topeka school districts say they’re working jointly to uncover the facts about what happened Saturday, Heilman and Benson hope there’s a learning opportunity for both schools as, they say, unruly behavior happened on both sides.

“Understand what they did was wrong. Whether they go to Topeka or they go to Valley, there were things on both sides that were wrong, and I hope people understand their wrongs and take accountability for their actions,” Benson said.

“Both teams are in the wrong. Neither one of us is right in this circumstance and we need to find a way to make sure that every student, regardless of which school they go to, feels safe and heard,” Heilman added.