BURNT HILLS, NY – School officials in Burnt Hills began discussing disciplinary measures for the students responsible for spouting a derogatory chant during the school’s homecoming football game this past weekend.
It’s an incident that nearly cost the championship football program a forfeited loss, but may have already cost the entire community something much more important — their reputation.
While it may take time to realize what, if any, damage may have been done to the school’s reputation, something everyone already agrees on is that there is no place in society for what happened on the football field last Saturday.
The incident happened during the closing moments of the game, with the Spartans closing out a lopsided 49-0 win over Amsterdam. That’s when many Burnt Hills students began chanting: “Amster-ico,” a derogatory reference to Amsterdam’s Hispanic population, which is roughly one-fourth Hispanic.
“It was just disheartening for our kids to do something of that nature,” said Burnt Hills Athletic Director Bob McGuire. “It’s a bad act. It’s not anything Burnt Hills would ever condone.”
McGuire says he’s been numb about it ever since, and he believes Spartan coach Matt Shell did the right thing when he grabbed the public address microphone and told the crowd to knock it off or else he’d take his team off the field and forfeit.
“The captains of the team came right to me when I walked over to the sideline,” McGuire stated. “They were upset. They were extremely upset for what their own classmates were doing and they would have been 100 percent behind Coach Shell if he had taken the team off the field.”
Brittany Dexter, a 2006 Burnt Hills graduate, who went on to become a champion high jumper in college, says if someone chanted anything derogatory during one of her track meets, she’d hope her coach would do exactly what Coach Shell did.
“I’d be really disappointed,” Dexter says, “but I guess that’s one of those things that I don’t accept comments like that so I think the message it would send is more important to me then disqualifying my height.”
In the meantime, McGuire says he hopes the ugly incident becomes an educational opportunity for the community.
“We’re never going to get over it,” he says, “I hope we don’t. I hope all our kids can learn from this of how an incident for thirty seconds can have a devastating effect on the community and a school system.”
McGuire says Burnt Hills officials have already sent a letter of apology to the Amsterdam School District.
He says some Burnt Hills students have already come forward to admit their role in the chant and he expects school officials will be talking with many more in the coming days.
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