CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - The NAACP's Charleston branch is calling for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the rehiring of a high school football coach who allowed his team to engage in an allegedly racist post-game ritual.
NAACP officials said during a press conference this morning that they were deeply troubled by events that transpired at Charleston's Academic Magnet High School, and by the rehiring of coach Bud Walpole, who was fired only last week following an investigation into what some had complained were inappropriate post game celebrations.
During the celebrations, members of the football team gathered in a circle and smashed watermelons, while their teammates made what have been described as "monkey-like" sounds.
Initially, the Charleston County School District maintained the players were engaging in an innocent ritual and that the coaches had no concerns it was be perceived as being racist in tone.
But after an investigation that included interviews with 30 students, coach Walpole and two assistant coaches, the district decided "the practices that were part of this ritual were not something that the adults should have sanctioned," according to Charleston County School Superintendent Nancy McGinley.
Walpole was immediately relieved of all of his coaching duties, but just two days later, he was rehired after agreeing to participate in a district-sponsored sensitivity program and to discuss with his players the importance of being sensitive to the feelings of people of different races or backgrounds.
The NAACP charged this morning that "the overwhelmingly white parents of the football team galvanized a significant amount of support around re-instating Walpole and demanding the firing of McGinley."
Joining the NAACP in its call for a Justice Department inquiry into the matter were members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the National Action Network, and several local civic leaders.
Together they said the problem wasn't the superintendent, but rather, a Charleston County School Board that hasn't supported diversity in the schools. They pointed out that out of 644 students at the Academic Magnet School, only 15, or 2.3 percent, are African American.
In a statement handed out at the press conference, the NAACP said, "The School Board has consistently opposed every substantial measure of this and past superintendents to end discrimination against African Americans and other students of color and significantly improve diversity."
Within minutes of the event's wrapping up, attendees were shocked to learn that superintendent McGinley had resigned at an emergency school board meeting that was convened and adjourned into executive session as the civil rights activists spoke.
McGinley will stay on as a consultant to the district through June 30, 2015, the district said.
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