San Tan Valley students protest racist incident at game

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. -- A racially-charged middle school basketball game has developed into  tension between the Florence Unified School District, and a group of angry parents.

During a tense game between 8th grade teams from Skyline Ranch and Walker Butte Schools last Thursday, a player from the Walker Butte team used a racial slur against a player for Skyline Ranch.

RJ Childs, the 14-year-old who was targeted by the racist slur, says he tried to keep his head in the game.

"What was said should not have been said," RJ told 3TV.

His parents, along with other teammates' parents, have since grown furious over the way school officials handled the incident.

Ron Childs says the player who used the slur against his son was suspended for two games. The Skyline Ranch parents say the same suspension was given to one of their players, who stood up in RJ's defense.

Childs says the punishment for the opposing player should be more harsh, and at least last the rest of the season.

"Just to show everyone in the district and the athletes  that this cannot be tolerated at all," Childs told 3TV.

In protest, RJ and a couple of his teammates walked off the court before tip-off at their Tuesday night game.

"We figured a protest would let the school know that this needs to be handled correctly," Childs said.

While the entire team thought about walking out, in the end only a few carried through.

Those who remained in the game played for a brand new coach. The team's regular coach, Arthur Williams, was fired following the racial incident.

Williams says his wife posted a message on their joint Facebook account, demanding the Florence Unified School District take more severe action against the student athlete who used the racial slur.

"My wife showed her disgust in what happened. She said it was a disgrace to the community and the Florence District, and that the school has to do something about it," Williams told 3TV.

The now former coach says he was brought into a meeting, and fired for violating faculty policy on social media.   Williams says he told school officials that his wife posted the critical message online, but was fired anyway.

A spokesman for the Florence Unified School District told 3TV he is unable to comment or elaborate on the incident, the punishments, or the coach's firing.

He says school officials believe it was all "handled appropriately."

The upset parents hope to meet with school officials later this week.