Warning: New Jersey School Districts Are In For a Wild RideSeptember 19, 2023
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On September 8th, the Plainfield High School football team played a game against Montgomery High School, losing 23-14. In the aftermath, Plainfield Superintendent Rashon K. Hasan wrote a letter to the head of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, detailing “multiple complaints and accounts of the game, which have been documented and shared with my office and on social media [and] paint a disheartening picture of the officiating, specifically concerning its discriminatory, unfair, and unethical nature.” During the game, 44 penalties were called, 36 against Plainfield, and the head coach was ejected.
In an earlier complaint to NJSIAA, Rashan said,
“It has come to my attention that the officials referred to members of the Plainfield High School staff by the derogatory term “Boy” and made statements such as “Hurry up, boy” and “Stand right there, boy,” instead of showing human dignity and addressing them by their names. This is both disrespectful and unprofessional behavior, which further contributes to the perception that the officials failed to treat our students and coaching staff with the respect they rightfully deserve.”
“The practice of white men and women referring to black men as ‘Boy’ has a long and deeply troubling history in the United States. This racial slur was used to demean and dehumanize black men and reinforce the power dynamics of racial segregation and discrimination. It is important to recognize that the use of racially derogatory language has been a tool of oppression and dehumanization, and it is widely condemned today. The mere fact that officials who were selected and trained by the NJSIAA saw fit to use such derogatory language calls into question the values and cultural competencies of the NJSIAA.”
Update: NJSIAA just issued this statement:
“The NJSIAA takes allegations of bias seriously. All parties — the school, the coaches, and the officials — deserve due process and a thorough investigation, and NJSIAA is committed to providing that process and that investigation. To this end, NJSIAA has retained David Hespe, who twice served as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education, to conduct a third-party investigation. In addition, NJSIAA has contacted the local assigner to ensure this particular officiating crew will not be assigned to Plainfield games. We will provide additional updates as appropriate.”
Here is Hasan’s letter in full.
Dear Ms. Maguire,
I trust this letter finds you well. I am writing to express my profound disappointment and deep concern regarding the recent decision of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) in response to the issues raised in my previous correspondence dated September 12, 2023, which addressed the behavior and conduct of the officiating crew during the football game on Friday, September 8, 2023, between Plainfield High School and Montgomery Township High School.
As Superintendent of the Plainfield Public School District, my primary responsibility is to safeguard the well-being and promote the fair treatment of our students, coaches, and staff members. It is with this duty in mind that I feel compelled to address the NJSIAA’s preliminary response, which regrettably falls short of addressing the gravity of the situation and the impact it has had on our school community.
I must first reiterate my profound disappointment with the decision not to overturn the suspension of our coaches and the apparent unwillingness to issue penalties against the officials involved in this incident. The conduct of the officiating crew during the game, as documented in my previous letter and supported by video evidence, exhibited a blatant disregard for fairness, equity, and professionalism. This decision sends a distressing message about the NJSIAA’s policies to address serious instances of racism, discrimination, and unprofessional behavior within the sphere of interscholastic athletics.
I hoped that the NJSIAA would recognize the severity of this specific situation, acknowledge the impact of the officials’ actions on our school community and the broader Plainfield community, and take decisive steps to rectify this injustice. Regrettably, the preliminary response fails to reflect a comprehensive understanding of the implications and ramifications of such behavior within the educational and athletic context.
The use of racially insensitive language by the officiating crew, as well as their biased officiating, poses a significant threat to the culture and climate of not just the Plainfield Public School District, but also for school districts throughout the State of New Jersey. It is incumbent upon the NJSIAA to recognize that such actions not only harm our student-athletes but also undermine the principles of respect, sportsmanship, and inclusivity that we seek to instill within our educational institutions.
Considering the NJSIAA’s response, I am compelled to exercise my authority as the Superintendent of Plainfield Public Schools to take decisive action to protect our school community and uphold our values. Effective immediately, I will not permit the officials involved in this incident to enter or occupy any facilities, property, or land that is owned and operated by the Plainfield Public School District. These individuals have demonstrated a specific racial animus against our coaching staff which will not be tolerated by our District. It is a direct threat to the safety, well-being, and educational environment of our students and staff.
This decision is not made lightly but is an essential step in safeguarding the integrity of our educational institution and ensuring that our students and staff are not subjected to further harm or discrimination. It is my hope that this action will underscore the gravity of the situation and serve as a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated within the realm of interscholastic athletics or within our school community. Furthermore, we will seek appropriate and equitable legal actions to obtain a resolution our students and staff deserve.
In conclusion, I implore the NJSIAA to reevaluate its position and take the necessary actions to address the concerns raised in my initial letter. It is essential that the NJSIAA uphold its responsibility to promote fairness, equity, and sportsmanship within the realm of high school athletics in the State of New Jersey. The actions of the officials on September 8, 2023, have cast a shadow over the principles we hold dear, and it is our collective responsibility to rectify this situation in the name of justice, integrity, and educational excellence.
I remain committed to working with the NJSIAA to ensure that such incidents are properly addressed and that our student-athletes can compete in a safe, respectful, and equitable environment. I trust that, upon further reflection, the NJSIAA will choose to align itself with these principles and work with Plainfield Public Schools to rebuild trust and foster an atmosphere of inclusivity and fairness within interscholastic athletics.
Rashon K. Hasan, Ed. S.
Superintendent of Schools
Plainfield Public School District