SUMMIT, NJ - The NJSIAA Controversies Committee has unanimously determined that the incident preceding the Summit High School versus North Plainfield High School Football game on Sept. 13 was not an intentional act of racial bias, taunting or harassment.
The ruling comes days after a five and one-half hour hearing held on Oct. 16, which included written and oral testimony testimony from both schools. North Plainfield had alleged Summit committed a racial insult by placing a banana in an opening separating the two locker rooms before the football game between the schools, subsequently won by Summit 26-0.
Summit had countered that the act was in no way racially motivated, but rather a tradition that began in a prior season to plug a gap between the home and visitor's locker rooms, preventing the opposing team from hearing what was being discussed in the Hilltoppers team area. In light of Summit's back-to-back State Championships, Summit argued, the players saw the act as a good luck tradition.
As part of their decision, the NJSIAA Committee mandated the following:
- Foster reconciliation, through two meetings between the Summit and North Plainfield football teams, one before the end of this season and one to be held prior to the start of the 2015 season.
- Require that Summit High School provide an in-service training program for the coaching staff, focused on sensitivity and an understanding of racial bias incidents.
- Ensure Summit High School Athletic Director Bob Lockhart review all NJSIAA sportsmanship rules, in detail, with all coaches prior to the start of the next three sports seasons
In response to the ruling, the Summit Board of Education, through Superintendent of Schools Dr. Nathan Parker, released the following statement:
"Today, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) issued a decision regarding an incident at a football game between Summit High School and North Plainfield High School on Saturday, September 13.
After a hearing last Thursday, Oct.16, the NJSIAA Controversies Committee unanimously determined that the incident was not an intentional act of racial bias, taunting or harassment.
The Committee concluded that steps should be taken to foster reconciliation between the Summit and North Plainfield football teams in two meetings, one before the end of this season and one to be held prior to the start of the 2015 season.
Although the Committee determined there was no incident of racial bias towards North Plainfield or any of Summit’s opponents, the Committee required that Summit High School provide an in-service training program for the coaching staff, focused on sensitivity and an understanding of racial bias incidents. It was also determined that the Athletic Director review all NJSIAA sportsmanship rules, in detail, with all coaches prior to the start of the next three sports seasons.
We are pleased that the NJSIAA’s investigation confirmed that Summit did not engage in unsportsmanlike conduct. We appreciate the time that the Committee took to review the incident thoroughly.
We regret any hurt, however unintentional, that players, coaches and members of the North Plainfield community felt because of this incident.
We thank you, our parents, staff and community, for your support."