BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - St. Patrick Catholic High released results of a school investigation into allegations of racism. The diocese superintendent met with his staff and students Tuesday to sort out the controversy that erupted on social media following a softball game over the weekend.
"We conducted a full investigation. We have no evidence that any racial comments or racial slurs were made by any of our athletes or any of our students," said St. Patrick Catholic High Interim Principal Matt Buckley.
School leaders made that conclusion after meeting with the superintendent, principal, coaches, game administrator, students and players. The probe was sparked by allegations of racism made by a woman who attended Saturday's girl's softball game at St. Patrick against Philadelphia. She posted a picture of one of the St. Patrick players wearing a monkey mask in the dugout. Buckley said the team chose the theme "The Zoo" and was emulating other SEC college teams that wear masks and props during games.
"The whole idea behind it is to get them fired up and have fun in the dugout. I honestly from the bottom of my heart do not believe that it was the intent of that student to offend anyone," said Buckley.
"It's unfortunate that the picture that was posted, the one that was cropped, was of the monkey and no one was able to get a picture of the rest of the masks that they were wearing. It was not meant to be any type of racial statement or racial innuendo in any form," he added.
Buckley said when some of the Philadelphia fans told the coaches they were offended by the monkey mask, it was immediately removed. And regarding the woman's claims that she heard St. Patrick players making racist remarks, Buckley said they were also unfounded, especially after talking on the phone with Philadelphia's head coach.
"He said during the game, he did not hear of any racial comments by our players or by our students. He said there's no indication, nothing was brought to his attention during the game," said Buckley.
Buckley said from now on, his players will not be allowed to wear masks in the dugout. The findings will now be turned over to the Mississippi High School Activities Association.
In the aftermath of controversy, WLOX News Now has learned of some racially-charged comments on social media, reportedly made by a St. Patrick student. Buckley said he is also aware of the posts and will try to determine if they were made by any of his students and whether they were directly connected to the school. If so, he said those students may face disciplinary action, based on the school's social media and cyberbullying policy.