PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The alleged racism that occurred during a basketball game between Molalla High School and Gladstone High School has prompted two separate investigations, one among the two school districts and the Oregon School Activities Association and a second by the Molalla Police Department.
Police say they’re conducting an investigation because what happened at the Friday, Jan. 28 game is a “potential crime and bias-based incident.”
Gladstone High School students say a woman pointed an image of an American flag and Confederate flag on her phone toward the basketball team as she escorted them to the visitor’s locker room. During the varsity game, Gladstone students say a Molalla student fan had his face and upper body painted black and that Molalla students were making monkey noises while Gladstone’s Black players had the ball or were shooting free throws.
One parent of a Black student on the Gladstone team said her son was humiliated by the racism he experienced. She and another student who spoke to KOIN 6 News believe the Molalla student was wearing blackface to mock and taunt African American students on Gladstone’s team.
Fynn Brechbiel, a sophomore on Gladstone’s junior varsity boys basketball team, said he confronted the student who was wearing the black face paint in the stands and asked him what he was doing. The student responded saying, “I don’t know,” and started laughing.
Brechbiel said Gladstone players have experienced racism at other sporting events, so he took a picture of the student as proof. He said he asked the student to take a selfie with him and snapped a photo.
“I was thinking I want to do something. I want to, like, speak up. I don’t want to just stay silent, not do anything, just this guy get away with it because it’s not okay,” Brechbiel said.
When Brechbiel and other students told the Molalla student that blackface was racist, he didn’t express remorse or offer to take the makeup off; instead, the student and his friends started laughing about the fact that they were being called racist, according to Brechbiel.
After the incident, when students and parents had reported what happened, Brechbiel said he received a phone call from the Molalla school resource officer who wanted to know why he had taken the picture.
Lisa Brechbiel, Fynn’s mother, said she wasn’t on the call, but from what Fynn told her, it sounded like the officer wanted Fynn to apologize for escalating the situation and tried telling him that the Molalla student didn’t mean to be racist. The officer was also, according to Lisa, upset that Fynn had shared the photo. Lisa said her son didn’t spread the photo around and that she sent it to several moms to see if they could identify the student in blackface. Lisa told KOIN 6 News it seemed like the officer was trying to reframe the situation.
KOIN 6 News asked the Molalla River School District if it was aware of the phone call between the school resource officer and Fynn Brechbiel. Superintendent Tony Mann responded saying his district is collaborating with the Gladstone School District and OSAA on an investigation and that the Molalla school resource officer has no role in the investigation they’re conducting.
Mann said the Molalla Police Department would need to address the school resource officer’s actions.
The police department told KOIN 6 News it is currently conducting its own investigation of the incident that took place at Molalla High School and that the Molalla school resource officer is responsible for calls and incidents that occur at the school. They said the officer may contact victims, witnesses and suspects of any age as it pertains to an investigation and parents are not required to be present when the officer contacts children.
They said part of this investigation involves interviewing all parties involved. The investigation has been assigned to a detective who is conducting follow-up interviews to determine if a biased incident occurred.
The police department said it takes bias crimes and incidents very seriously, but did not provide additional details about what was discussed between the school resource officer and Fynn Brechbiel.
OSAA executive director Peter Weber said he was not aware the Molalla Police Department was conducting a separate investigation into the reported racism. He said Molalla School District, Gladstone School District and OSAA have contracted a third-party investigator to look into the incident. He said he could not provide KOIN 6 News the name of the investigator.