Investigator to review alleged racist taunts at Stanwood football game

It may take three weeks to complete the investigation. Meanwhile, one of the game’s officials disputed claims about slurs on the playing field.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Stanwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118

STANWOOD — The Stanwood-Camano School District has hired an outside investigator to review allegations that some of their students used racial slurs during a recent home football game against Lakes High School.

Meanwhile, one of the game’s top officials has disputed claims about racist taunts on the playing field.

In a written public statement, Superintendent Deborah Rumbaugh noted Wednesday that the investigation may take up to three weeks. The process is underway and will include a findings report, she wrote.

“I would ask that we allow the investigatory process to take place and reserve judgment until the outcomes of that process,” Rumbaugh wrote. “Once the outcomes of the investigation are known and made public, we will work collaboratively and transparently with our schools and community to take all necessary next steps to fulfill our responsibility to defeat hate, racism and ignorance.”

Following the game Nov. 4, several Lakes High School parents, players and coaches posted accounts on social media of hearing racist taunts during the game. One mother, Claire Dade Johnson, said her daughter was called the n-word in the girls bathroom by Stanwood students. Dave Miller, the Lakes head football coach, said the Stanwood student section was “yelling the n-word at our players” throughout the game.

In an interview with The Daily Herald on Tuesday, the game’s head referee Steve Jensen disputed some of the details shared in a Tacoma News Tribune article.

“The article states there was multiple times that their coaches came to the officials and told them of racial slurs. (That’s) totally false,” said Steven Jensen, who also serves as the assigner for Snohomish County football officials. “Never once did any coach come to us and tell us there was racial slurs. Never. They also stated that it happened throughout the game on the field. Never once did we as an officiating crew hear any racial slurs on the field of play.”

Jensen said the officials have a “protocol” for handling racist taunts and complaints of racism during games. They strictly follow that protocol when it is necessary, but it was not needed on Nov. 4, Jensen said.

“And we actually were talking after the game how awesome the Lakes sideline was — their coaching staff, their players, and how uneventful the game was, because nothing happened that we had to worry about,” Jensen said. “It was just a great football game and two good teams and they played hard.”

In her Wednesday update, Rumbaugh said she “stands(s) firm in my conviction that any act of hate or hate speech has no place in our district or community.”

The school district investigation also received verbal backing from the City of Stanwood.

“We have much respect for our partnership with the Stanwood School District and believe they will leave no stone unturned until the full truth is known and have full confidence that they will take proper corrective action as they see appropriate,” the city wrote in a press release on Wednesday.

Herald sports reporter Cameron Van Til contributed to this report.

Mallory Gruben is a Report for America corps member who writes about education for The Daily Herald.

Mallory Gruben: 425-339-3035;; Twitter: @MalloryGruben.

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