TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. -- A fight between two teammates on the Kenmore East Varsity girls basketball team brought to light a disturbing team ritual.
The district says two of the girls got into a physical altercation on Monday and were suspended as a result of that fight. During that investigation it came to the district's attention that before games, the team would use a chant in the locker room that included the "N" word. Administators say the team chanted "1-2-3 n-word!" then ran out of the locker room to start the game.
Kenmore - Town of Tonawanda School Superintendent Mark Mondonaro called it "an unfortunate and unacceptable incident amongst students that the District dealt with in a very swift and firm manner."
The Superintendent says he believes the chant started as a joke between students that no longer attend the school. Some say the chant has been going on for at least 2 to 3 years. It's unclear how or why the chant was started and by whom.
Tyra Batts is the 15-year-old African American student who brought the chant to the attention of school administrators. She says she was shocked when she heard the chant and felt uncomfortable during the basketball game that followed.
"Everyone looked at me afterward and then they didn't think anything of it - they just their stuff and went out on the court cause they thought I was going to take it as just a word not a label."says Batts.
The incident happened prior to Friday's varsity basketball game. Batts confronted one of the senior leaders on the team Monday and has been suspended for the rest of the week for assaulting her. Batts says she was frustrated about the use of the n-word during a team event and the senior she attacked called her another name following the incident.
Every girl on the team has been suspended for at least one game and two days of out of school suspension.
All basketball activities have been cancelled this week including practices. The game against Olean on Saturday has been postponed. Every girl on the team has been suspended for 2 school days and 1 basketball game, to be determined at a later time. The team will have to participate in cultural diversity training at some point this year.
Tyra's parents say they were shocked to hear about the incident and even more upset to hear it's been going on for years.
"Just the fact that this is coming from students that you know are growing up coming into the world." says Michelle Batts, Tyra's Mom.
You can view the superintendent's press conference in the video player.
Mondonaro says he talked with Tyra and her parents and apologized to them on behalf of the district. Michelle and Ray Batts say they were satisfied with the districts response.
Click on the video link above to see Marissa Bailey's report.