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Students Suspended For Racial Tweets After Westchester High School Basketball Game

Confederate flag tweet. (credit: Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis)

Confederate flag tweet. (credit: Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis)

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MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Three high school students in Westchester County have been suspended for allegedly posting racial tweets following a recent game against a rival school.

Officials said it happened after Mount Vernon defeated Mahopac on Feb. 27. Students and school officials said scuffles erupted in the stands and the racial slurs were posted afterward.

In some of the tweets, the Mount Vernon players are referred to as monkeys. One post displays a Confederate flag, and there are claims someone pulled out an actual flag at the game.

One Twitter user even mocked single parents, posting, “tough loss boys, but at least we can talk to our dads about it.”

It was clear that tension was high at the game. Some tweets seemed to indicate some Mount Vernon fans were trash-talking.

“It’s disgraceful,” said Mahopac High School student Laura Peniowich. “It’s embarrassing that people are saying racial things on Twitter.”

The online rants triggered outrage from the superintendents of both school districts.

“We cannot hide from racism,” Mount Vernon interim school Superintendent Judith Johnson said. “We have to confront it, we have to acknowledge it, and we have to deal with it.”

“What they did was unacceptable,” Mahopac schools Superintendent Thomas Manko said.

Manko said three students whose tweets were verified have been suspended. He said students will be given sensitivity training so they understand why they can’t use such words.

“Some have already been suspended, others will be, and as an education institution, they will be re-educated that words do matter and there are some words you just don’t use,” he said.

Johnson also claims that Mahopac’s players made racially charged comments to the Mount Vernon team during the traditional end-of-game handshake.

She sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state education commissioner, in which she details the incident and some of the tweets and asks for a full investigation.

“This is not an allegation,” she said in the letter. “This abuse is a fact as it was witnessed by several students.”

She is also requesting that the Mahopac basketball team be suspended for a year and that the state publicly recognize the incident as a civil rights violation of bullying and racial harassment.

Johnson, Manko, the schools’ principals and coaches met with state education officials Thursday to review evidence and discuss the incident.

Johnson release a statement after the meeting saying a news conference was being planned for Friday to discuss the incidents and the steps discussed will be presented to each district’s school boards.

“While efforts to address a heightened awareness of the emotional and social damage that comes from being victims of racism were discussed, I also asked the we address the issues of social justice,” Johnson said. “Our District will not stand idle in the face of violations of human rights.  I continue to feel that the most effective way to combat injustice and discrimination in this country is to turn to the courts for evidence of laws that have been broken.

“Our children must feel they are protected by the US and state constitutions — where good will and moral outrage fails, constitutional laws are our protection against injustice,” she added.

CBS 2 reached out to some of the Twitter users who posted some of the comments, but has not heard back.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)