Investigation Into LCHS Fan Behavior Concludes, Discipline Issued

The La Cañada High School administration on Tuesday said it has concluded its investigation into language and behavior by some student fans at an LCHS basketball game on Feb. 23, and determined that frequent profanity and “a slur” were used at the game. Discipline has been issued, officials said.
The administration conducted an “extensive investigation” that included interviews with more than 35 witnesses, Principal Jim Cartnal said in an emailed statement to LCHS 9-12 parents.
The student behavior was detailed in an editorial column by Outlook publisher Charlie Plowman on Feb. 28, when he described sitting directly in front of a “relatively small group” of LCHS student fans who he said hurled profane, homophobic and racist taunts at several Ontario Colony High School players at a CIF championship game.
Cartnal said he was sending out the email because parents and students requested that a final statement be issued on the matter.
“La Cañada Unified School District recognizes the concerns raised in the Outlook by Mr. Plowman in his editorial dated Feb. 28,” he said. “In response, LCHS administration conducted an extensive investigation. The findings from the investigation corroborated the frequent use of expletives by many student fans. In over 35 witness interviews, administration was able to substantiate the use of a slur and this was followed up with disciplinary consequences.”
One student was identified as having used a homophobic slur, which resulted in disciplinary consequences, LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said separately on Wednesday in an email. Typically, LCHS students do not face discipline for the use of profanity, she noted.
Sinnette added that, though the investigation has concluded, the district will work diligently to help teach and improve upon student empathies and sensitivities.
“We have important work in the realm of teaching and learning that we will continue to do at LCHS to support our students and to ensure their character development as adolescents who embrace and foster a school climate of inclusion, empathy and personal dignity,” she said.
Sinnette also confirmed that supervision staff present at the basketball game were interviewed and signed statements saying they did not hear any racial or homophobic slurs.
“None of our supervising staff heard any racial or homophobic slurs — if they had they would have intervened and taken action to eject the student(s),” she said. “As a staff we need to do a better job of responding to the use of expletives, the use of which does not represent our student body as we would like. However, it is not typical practice to give disciplinary consequences for expletives — we stop students, counsel them, identify the expectations for language and behavior, and move forward.”
In his editorial column, Plowman said there were three LCHS staff members located, at times, either directly behind him or in the near vicinity who he assumed could also hear the offensive language being used. These staff members did not include Cartnal, who was stationed farther down the court about 50 feet away, behind one of the baselines.
As reported on March 7, sports reporters from three media outlets confirmed to The Outlook that they also heard the offensive language, but said that due to the intense noise and echo in the gymnasium, anyone would have had to be seated near the students in question to hear it.
At the recent LCUSD board meeting, and separately through emails, Sinnette and Cartnal detailed the preventive measures they are taking to make sure inappropriate student fan behavior is not repeated at future sporting events. Those efforts will include an additional component of the Positive Coaching Alliance, which addresses fans behavior. There are also educational tools in place that they will continue to emphasize, clear expectations for fan behavior, and a continued partnership with Challenge Success, which also centers on building relationships with students and tries to establish a climate of care, Sinnette said.
In the March 7 article, Sinnette told The Outlook that during her tenure at LCUSD as superintendent, there have been a total of four complaint reports taken regarding discriminatory behavior within the district. Three of those reports, including Plowman’s, centered on offensive language heard at basketball games. For each report, there was an investigation and disciplinary consequences if warranted.
Part of the reason behavior at basketball games may be an issue is that, as Cartnal pointed out in an interview after the most recent incident, LCHS students are passionate supporters of the basketball team, which has consistently finished as league champion and repeatedly made the CIF playoffs over the years. At the game in question, some 300 student fans made more than an hour’s drive to follow the team to Azusa Pacific University to watch the Spartans take on Colony. LCHS lost by just three points, but student leaders were proud of how many kids came together to show their school spirit, and the fan base as a whole was even complimented for its participation by the CIF.
The LCHS student group was the largest fan base the CIF ever hosted at APU, site manager Richard Ward told LCHS officials in an email shared with The Outlook. The group as a whole showed “great enthusiasm” and readily followed instructions, he said.
Sinnette emphasized that the negative behavior should not reflect on the greater student body.
“While it in no way excuses the negative and unacceptable fan behaviors that this matter has raised, it does speak to some exemplary behaviors exhibited by student fans and paints a picture regarding an alternate experience by the public that evening,” she said.

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