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School district officials, social media users, state senator talking about where to go from here.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: STEVE BRANDON - Student athletes from St. Helens and Milwaukie high schools wear t-shirts on Jan. 25 prior to a girls basketball game. Students made the shirts in response to a series of racist comments that allegedly made on Jan. 15 when St. Helens played Parkrose High School.Racist comments allegedly made following a St. Helens High School girls basketball game in mid-January continue to bring attention to the St. Helens community.

And now the subject has made its way to the Oregon State Legislature. On Tuesday Jan. 29, Sen. Lew Frederick, a Democrat from Northeast Portland, spoke about the incident while on the Senate floor. He explained that he hopes to prompt broader conversation about laws that could be crafted to protect people from race-based intimidation, according to news reporting by Oregon Public Broadcasting, a Pamplin Media Group news partner.

Video of Frederick's comments made during the Senate chamber meeting start around the 14:20 minute mark.

The incident was first reported by Fox News 12 after the Parkrose High School basketball coach and players on the team said racial slurs were yelled at them during a game against St. Helens High School in St. Helens. Initial reports indicated the racist comments happened during the game, while others claimed it took place outside in the parking lot afterward.

St. Helens players said they weren't aware of any incident on Jan. 15, when they defeated Parkrose 61-35, until the following day.

"I didn't witness anything at the game, and I don't know what happened after it," said Maria Reardon, a sophomore on the St. Helens varsity squad. What was reported to have happened "was incredibly unfortunate," and, "we don't stand for that," Reardon added.

Some on social media said they were at the game and contested accounts that racist comments were made during the game.

Others noted that whether or not the incident played out as initially portrayed, displaying any racist behavior is unacceptable.

"Personally I feel like whether the story is correct or not, isn't as important as the conversation that's been brought up by it," social media user Olivia Bowers noted in a Facebook thread about the incident.

On Thursday, Jan. 31, the Oregon chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also issued a statement. "It is right now time to address the misappropriate handling of institutional inequalities that are too often ignored by school officials," NAACP President E.D. Mondainé stated in part in the release.

"The appalling and heinous actions displayed by the St. Helens students is a grave matter and registers in my thinking as a hate crime, a clear case for bias intimidation" Mondainé added in the release.

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Columbia County Spotlight.


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