North Side Middle School Coach Suspended After Telling Team Not to ‘Act Black’

Michelle Sokol, The Elkhart Truth, February 11, 2016

A middle school teacher and coach who told her girls basketball team not to “act black” was suspended from her coaching duties, but some parents insist the suspension is not enough.

Vicki Rogers, a teacher and coach at Elkhart’s North Side Middle School, has been suspended from her coaching duties since Jan. 22 because she told her team to not “act black” and referred to the players on another area basketball team as “ghetto.” {snip}

Rogers, a 30-year district employee, was allowed to continue teaching during the suspension.

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At least a few parents of girls on the team were deeply offended and outraged by the comments, which they say send a message that black players should be hiding the color of their skin.

“I don’t want my daughter to feel like the color of her skin is something she needs to hide so she doesn’t come across as ‘ghetto,’” said another mother of a player, who also would only speak anonymously. “That whole idea that the coach put in my daughter’s head is something I can never take back out. She has never identified as ignorant or not well-behaved because she is black.”

That second mother said she believes Rogers should be fired from her coaching and teaching duties for the remarks, but the school district has a specific process it must follow when dealing with complaints.

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At least two parents of girls on the team were furious that the district took so long to suspend Rogers from her coaching duties. Between the time the incident happened and the time Rogers was suspended, there were several basketball practices. At one of those practices, one of the mothers said Rogers delivered a tearful apology to the girls for her comments.

One of the mothers said Rogers’ comments–which she said, in full, were, “I don’t care what you think about what I am about to say, but you better not go out there and act black like the ghetto girls at Pierre Moran”–indicated the coach was not truly sorry.

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Those parents were also unhappy with what happened when the team learned of the suspension. Most of the girls on the team and their parents were upset by the suspension and wanted Rogers to return immediately, the two mothers said.

The mothers said that during a parent meeting regarding the situation, another coach gave an anonymous poll to the girls on the team and asked them to write on a piece of paper whether they wanted Rogers to return. Only one girl said “no,” another put a question mark on a sheet of paper, and 18 of the girls said “yes.”

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Although Doug Thorne, executive director of personnel and support services for the district, said he was unsure when the coach would return, parents have heard it could be as soon as next week–but not because of that informal poll at the parents meeting. Rather, it’s because she was cooperative in taking a two-hour sensitivity training arranged through the Human Relations Commission.

In emails to her principal, Rogers indicated she would like to complete the training as soon as possible to get back to coaching.

The mothers were upset to learn Rogers could return to coaching so soon.

“There is a certain trust we have when we give our children to the school, and that trust has been violated,” one mother said. “You can apologize for something that you did not mean to say, but you can’t take back your underlying racial feelings.”

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