SEDGWICK COUNTY—Schools in USD 262/Valley Center will open again Thursday.
On Tuesday, Valley Center called off school for Wednesday, Dec. 7 as a result of alleged threats, out of an abundance of caution for all of our students and staff and after consulting with local law enforcement, according to a statement sent from Valley Center Superintendent Cory Gibson.
The district shared their plan for school Thursday and going forward. It includes increased law enforcement presence in and around schools; an increased number of officers who are monitoring buildings and grounds after school hours and additional officers at athletic events home and away. The plan also includes counselors and social workers for students to visit with if needed. Only visitors with previously scheduled appointments will be allowed inside district buildings
The Valley Center police department is working alongside the Park City police department, with support from the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office to keep students and staff safe.
The district reminded Parents/guardians to "be aware of what is happening with your child’s interactions on social media. This might be a good opportunity to encourage your child or children to step away from social media to reduce their risk of exposure to negative comments. Additionally, turning off the location of their devices might be helpful. Also, please report any threats directly to 911."
If parents are still uncomfortable sending their kids to school, it will be considered an excused absence to keep their children home.
These changes come as USD 262/Valley Center and Topeka High investigate after students at one school reportedly yelled racist and offensive taunts at the other school's basketball team last weekend.
Topeka High School's team was subjected to “racial slurs, threats and disgusting taunts,” during a game on Saturday with Valley Center High School, Coach Geo Lyons said in a Change.org petition. He also said Valley Center students used a Black baby doll to taunt his team during the game.
Lyons has started a petition asking that Valley Center High School fans be removed from sporting events.
Lyons told KSN-TV that his son was shooting a free throw when the Valley Center student section chanted an expletive. He also alleged that racial epithets were used and his team was told they were going to be hanged.
"I had a down locker room, I’m talking about tears were flowing in that locker room,” Lyons said.
Valley Center officials issued an apology Monday to Topeka High School for “inappropriate language and behavior” by students during the game.
The district said in a statement that Topeka and Valley Center officials spent much of the weekend studying videos and interviewing people in attendance. As of Tuesday, the officials had not found evidence of specifically racist taunts but Valley Center acknowledged that students acted inappropriately.
It said students who chanted the expletive at the Topeka student were immediately removed and Valley Center officials worked to prevent any other negative interactions when the game ended.
The Black baby doll was part of a class assignment that requires students to “parent” the baby for a few days, the district said. It was not brought to the game intentionally to taunt Topeka High School but “without context, seeing the baby and images of the ‘baby’ caused hurt and concern to many, and for that we are very sorry,” the statement said.
Valley Center Superintendent Cory Gibson had a “fruitful” conversation about the incident with representatives of the NAACP on Tuesday, spokeswoman Amy Pavlacka said. Gibson and Valley Center High School Principal Bruce Lolling also visited with patrons from both cities to discuss the situation.
“As a district, we sent a letter to all VCHS families and students explaining there would be follow-up consequences for those students involved, and that we, as a community, should learn and grow from this experience,” the statement said.
-The Associated Press contributed to this report