According to the Onslow County Public School System, the principal of Richlands High School, Brad Staley, has conducted “…a thorough investigation” into allegations of the racial slur “nigger” being found Feb. 12, painted in the visitors’ locker room prior to a boys’ basketball game between The Richlands High School Wildcats and the Pender High School team.

“Once the Richlands principal became aware of the racial allegations and lack of good sportsmanship, he and district staff began a thorough investigation immediately,” said Suzie Ulbrich, Public Affairs Officer for the school system. “The Richlands principal reached out to the Pender High School principal to discuss the matter, and assure him it would be handled appropriately. In our effort to keep our parents informed, a call went out to families so they would be aware of the situation and have accurate information.”

Ulbrich continued, “The [Richlands] principal took appropriate disciplinary action against students involved, in accordance with the school’s Student Code of Conduct policy.

School administrators met with students to let them know they would not tolerate any statements, actions, or behaviors that violate our policies on harassment or discrimination and encouraged them to come forward with any information they may have on the locker room incident.”

“The principal met with coaches and assistant coaches, both on staff and volunteers, to discuss several topics including sportsmanship; recent racial allegations and consequences for this behavior; fighting on the field of play; player ejections; and the creation of specific procedures for unsportsmanlike behavior.”

“Next…” Ms. Ulbrich continued, “…[Principal Staley] met with all student athletes to go over the same items discussed with coaches and announce that, moving forward, every student athlete and coach on the campus will complete two courses prior to athletic competition, beginning with spring sports. To do that, there will be after school sessions ahead of sports seasons where the athletes will complete the courses and turn in certificates of completion to be eligible to compete.  The two courses are Bullying, Hazing and Inappropriate Behaviors and NFHS Sportsmanship.  Student athletes will also be required to sign a sportsmanship contract.”

“Following an inquiry to the district athletic director…” Ulbrich concluded, “… NC High School Athletic Association Commissioner Que Tucker indicated in a letter she was satisfied with the initial steps taken to address the issues and was very satisfied with plans being made by Onslow County for the future in their athletic programs.”

When news of the alleged racial slur incident, one of at least three in the school system this school year, broke, The Reverend Dante Murphy, President of the Pender County NAACP, was not pleased with what he saw as a lack of transparency on the part of Richlands High or the Onslow County School System’s administration.

However, now, given the latest developments, Murphy is pleased that action has finally been taken.

“The Pender County NAACP wishes to express gratitude to the Pender County staff for bringing this issue to the public’s attention and the work Onslow County Schools are now doing to rectify this situation,” Reverend Murphy said in a statement Tuesday night.

“There are strong indications that the initial response by Onslow County Schools presented a failure to adequately respond to a pattern of race related incidents, and we hope that all involved staff have been properly reprimanded.  We also anticipate the assurance from both school systems that staff employees, current and future, who disclose unlawful or immoral activity, will suffer no retaliation in any form.”