The Beloit School District released a statement Monday in support of one of its students who was offended by the “gangster-themed” outfits worn by several Janesville Parker High School students at a girls basketball game against Beloit Memorial High School on Nov. 23.
Mandi Franks, captain of Beloit Memorial’s girls varsity basketball team, wrote an email to Parker High School Athletic Director Clayton Kreger and Parker Principal Christoper Laue expressing her disappointment with how the Janesville Parker students were dressed at the game.
Parker students were seen wearing white tank tops, saggy pants exposing their underwear, backwards hats, durags and gold chains. In her email, Franks said the outfits mocked Black culture and made a joke out of gang violence which is a serious issue for many Beloit students.
“The deaths we mourn every day and our peers we watch go to prison every day are not jokes to us, and they should not be jokes to your students,” Franks wrote in her letter to Kreger before suggesting Parker students need “inclusion and diversity education.”
In a joint statement released Monday, Beloit School District Superintendent Dr. Dan Keyser and Joel Beard, activities and athletic director for the district, said they supported Franks’ courage.
“Mandi addressed what she saw and knew to be a culturally insensitive theme. This theme night showed a lack of awareness and understanding of what is happening in our community, region and country,” Keyser and Beard said.
They continued: “We are proud of the diversity within the School District of Beloit. We acknowledge the challenges and adversity that so many of our families of color are facing. As a district, we will continue to support and elevate the voices of those speaking for diversity, inclusion and equity. We are stronger together and as one voice.”
According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the racial makeup of Beloit School District students is 34.4% Hispanic, 33.4% white, 22.2% Black and 8.7% are two or more races.
Janesville School District students, meanwhile, are 70% white, 14.6% Hispanic, 7.4% two or more races, 5.4% Black and 2.3% Asian.
The Janesville School District has not made an official statement.
Hillary Gavan of Adams Publishing Group contributed to this story.