Attorney releases report on Tabiona School and alleged racism

Local News

HOLLADAY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The attorney hired to look into alleged racism and unsportsmanlike conduct at Tabiona School has released his findings.

ABC4 News broke the news last week that Intermountain Christian School will not play any boys basketball games against Tabiona School for at least one year. The move comes after alleged escalating racism and unsportsmanlike conduct from Tabiona.

Attorney Blake Ostler was hired by The Duchesne County School District Board of Education to investigate the incidents. Ostler is speaking on behalf of Tabiona School.

According to ICS, Ostler did not speak with any of its staff members upon completing his investigation.

Intermountain Christian says they have had challenges with Tabiona in the past, but things became more egregious in January 2019.

Below is a summary of the alleged incidents by ICS and Ostler’s response:

January 18, 2019

Intermountain Christian School

According to a document obtained by ABC4 News, an elderly man, identified as Leon Casper of Tabiona, repeatedly yelled “Blackie , go home! Go home, blackie!” to Tim Drisdom, head coach and athletic director for Intermountain Christian School.

An ICS freshman “calmly confronted” Casper and asked, “Why are you doing that? That’s not the way to do it,” to which Casper reportedly responded, “Well he is a negro, isn’t he?”

Intermountain Christian says that student immediately informed an officer with the Duchesne County Sheriff’s Department, who was on duty at the game. The officer didn’t do anything.

During the game, two Tabiona fans were ejected by the officials.

Attorney Blake Ostler’s response

“The complaint asserts, and we have been able to verify, that a Tabiona fan engaged in yelling racially charged epithets at the ICS coach during the second half of the game. Exactly what was said is unclear, but it appears that the older gentleman, a grandfather to one of the players, yelled “blackie go home” to the ICS coach. When confronted by one of the ICS players that such conduct is not appropriate, this individual said: “Well, he is an n-word, isn’t he?” It goes without saying that such conduct is not acceptable in our civil society. However, Tabiona administration was not notified of these actions until three days after the events occurred and so could not take appropriate actions to remediate or address the issue at that time. However, we have been able to verify that the interaction between the ICS player and the Tabiona fan making the remarks was confirmed by a police officer who was at the game. In addition, two Tabiona fans were ejected by the referees from the gymnasium for conduct during the game. The exact nature of the conduct was difficult to deter.”

January 22, 2019

Intermountain Christian School

Intermountain Christian School Principal, Denise Buckley, received a call from one of the Tabiona fans who had been ejected from the game on January 18th. The caller claimed his son, who plays for the Tabiona Tigers, “received a death threat” after the game from Coach Drisdom.

Documents state the player was yelling at Drisdom during the game.

In the “good game” line at the end of the game, “As the player and Coach Drisdom shook hands, the ICS coach pulled the player closer to him to communicate. The player pulled back and Drisdom said, “Don’t you ever disrespect an adult. I don’t know who you think you are, but you are not about that. You’re not about that life. You are not about that life.” 

Drisdom told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson that the intent was not to threaten the player, but Tabiona took it otherwise, and thus, the “death threat” accusations began.

Attorney Blake Ostler’s response

“After the game, while shaking hands in the “good-game-line,” the ICS coach made an inappropriate comment to a Tabiona player. According to the Tabiona player and one other person who personally witnessed the interaction, the ICS coach said in words or effect: “Son if you ever look at me like that again you will lose your life.” The Tabiona coach was informed immediately after the game by several Tabiona players, including those who witnessed the interactions personally, of the threat made by the ICS coach. ICS and the ICS coach deny that he made a death threat and assert instead that he stated: “Don’t you ever disrespect an adult. I don’t know who you think you are but you are not about that. You’re not about that life.” We are unable to determine who is telling the truth with clarity. However, it is inherently unlikely, however, that the ICS coach had such a lengthy conversation with anyone while shaking hands after the game. Video shows a quick interaction with Tabiona players and nothing more. Given that the ICS coach had earlier been the brunt of racial slurs it would be natural and understandable if he were more than a bit disturbed about the conduct occurring at the game. However, being the object of such inappropriate comments does not justify a threat of the nature made to the student – if it occurred.”

January 22-February 14, 2019

Coach Drisdom and Darin Jenkins, principal of Tabiona School, had numerous conversations in preparation for the February 15th game at Tabiona. According to ICS, they were assured there would be no problems.

February 15, 2019 ICS at Tabiona

Intermountain Christian School

Leon Casper was back in attendance at this game. He’s accused of making racial slurs to ICS Head Coach, Tim Drisdom, in the game prior.

This time, he allegedly called Drisdom an a–hole.

“Coach Drisdom immediately asked Jenkins to deal with the situation. Mr. Jenkins did not hear him. After the game, Coach Drisdom let Jenkins know about the actions of Leon from across the court. Mr. Jenkins told Coach Drisdom, ‘I’ll keep an eye on him.’ “

Mitch Menning, the head of school at ICS, wanted Casper removed from the game.

Casper was not removed from the game because Jenkins “did not want to make a big scene.”

Intermountain says it was then asked if Casper can sit behind Tabiona’s bench and out of Coach Drisdom’s sight.

In the second quarter of the game, the two Tabiona fans who were ejected from the first game, were accused of “taunting,” “swearing” and “mocking” one of the ICS players.

Coach Drisdom can be seen on video trying to get his player’s attention. Drisdom wanted the player to switch on offense to get him away from the mocking, adult fans.

The 17-year-old “snapped” due to the verbal abuse of the adult fans and made an inappropriate comment to the crowd.

The player received his second technical foul and was disqualified for the rest of the game.

Also during the game, one woman says she heard a Tabiona fan yell either, “Get the f-ing n-word out of here!” or “Get the n-word the f— out of here!”

Drisdom and Tabiona Head Coach, Lee Gines, got into a yelling match in the hallway. A parent from ICS stepped in to defuse the situation.

Attorney Blake Ostler’s response

“We have verified that during the Junior Varsity game the same individual who had made the racial slur at the 18 January 2019 game once again was present, seated on the front row in the center of the gym, and that the ICS coach and principal complained to Tabiona’s principal that he should not be present, certainly not “front and center with a reserved seat,” and that he mouthed the words “you are an a-hole” to the ICS coach during the game. They asked that he be removed from the venue or put behind the Tabiona bench so that the ICS coach would not have to interact with him.
The Tabiona principal explained that removing the offending individual would be unwise because it would just make the situation worse. He also explained that he was seated on the front
row in the center of the gymnasium because he needs oxygen and that is the only location that oxygen is available in the gym. In interviews, several ICS witnesses suggested that the reasons
for having the fan front-and-center were both insufficient and untrue. They were already upset. They also claim that the Tabiona principal made matters worse by suggesting that an officer
should be posted in the center of the ICS fans so that matters would not appear one-sided. These statements made the ICS principal and coach quite angry.”

“During the second quarter of the game, an ICS player told the Tabiona crowed to “f-off” or words to that effect. The player – a key player for ICS – was given a second technical foul and excluded from the game and participation the play-in game in the state tournament. ICS admits that the student’s conduct was unacceptable but suggests that it would not have occurred if the Tabiona fans had not been swearing at him and taunting him. The player claims (through the drafter of the complaint) that a woman on the Tabiona side said: “Look at 23’s face, he is so ugly.” Because the video does not include audio it is impossible to know what the Tabiona fans said. If a Tabiona fan engaged in such conduct, then it is extremely immature and unacceptable. It does not, however, justify a player in responding in such a manner.”

More quotes from Blake Ostler during a phone interview with ABC4

“I was able to determine that a number of the incidents alleged in the written communication by ICS, couldn’t be verified. Meaning, I wasn’t able to disconfirm or to confirm what they had written.”

“It’s not the responsibility of the coach to keep the crowd in line nor is it an easy matter for a school district to eject a person from a public venue.”

“I can understand the coach of ICS (Tim Drisdom) being sensitive. He’s a person of color. My son-in-law is a person of color. My grandkids are persons of color. And so I am sensitive. Being in a small minority, in a small Utah town that’s almost 100 percent white, I can understand why ICS would be sensitive and want to protect him and why he might be sensitive.”

Tim Drisdom on the alleged racial verbiage directed towards him

“It was really, really loud and so he (Casper) didn’t yell it loud enough where I can hear it, but he yelled it loud enough to where one of our students heard it and addressed him on it.”

“I think it was a blessing that I didn’t hear it. I hate that it happened. I really hate that we had some kids that heard it.”

“I hate that what he sees me as is just a color. I hate that that is the only thing that he could find to say and I don’t think he has a desire to get to know me. But I’d love to sit down and talk with him. That’d be great.”

Drisdom on using this as a teachable moment for his players

“You really can’t change people’s hearts. That’s a God thing. That’s kind of what he does. What we can do is educate ourselves, put ourselves in positions to be more understanding. It’s also an opportunity to realize that this stuff still exists.”

Drisdom on the alleged death threat he made to a Tabiona player

“I’ve never threatened to kill anybody. Never.”

“The way I reacted towards what happened down there, I’m not proud of that. I’m not proud of the fact that I snapped. For me, it was a feeling of helplessness, a feeling of hopelessness in that space. I regret that that was my response.”

Drisdom on one of his players that was removed from the game

“He responded to fans taunting him.”

“He said some things that he probably should not have said after receiving his second technical foul.”

Drisdom’s takeaways from the incidents

“I think it’s sad. It’s sad that people lower themselves to that standard. It’s sad that that’s still a reality in America and anywhere.”

“Fans will say whatever they feel like they can say to get under your skin. There’s no limitation to that. There’s no respect, there’s no level. There’s no line to say OK, I’m not going to cross that.”

“That’s not a message we should give to 14,17,18-year-old kids, to expect to be called or to be labeled by your race. To be disrespected because of the color of your skin. That’s not the message we should be sending as coaches to our kids.”

Thoughts from Mitch Menning, head of school at Intermountain Christian School

“We’re playing schools that probably haven’t had a lot of diversity coming through their towns, so it’s coming to the surface there.”

“It’s bizarre to me that fans in high school games are allowed to be much less sportsmanlike, than fans in NBA arenas.”

“The bigger solution, and I think is a bit embarrassing to our state, is that we don’t have anything regarding racial slurs in our handbooks. We don’t have a fan code of conduct.”

“On the court, we haven’t seen any problems. We haven’t had any problems with the students from the other school. We haven’t had any problems with the student fans from the other school. But there seems to be a culture that’s among the adults that’s allowing kids to do that kind of thing too.”

“The shocking thing was given all the information that they knew, the disappointing part is that the administration and police didn’t really do anything about it at that time.”

“When you look back at the way things have gone there for a while, it looks like the coach has created this culture of unsportsmanlike conduct that has gone unchecked in the school.”

What happens next?

According to the Utah High School Activities Association, both schools usually work these sort of issues out with each other. But in this case, UHSAA has stepped in to help mediate and facilitate both parties coming together to discuss things.

The Utah High School Activities Association says ICS has requested a meeting with its Executive Committee Panel. The panel will review the facts presented by both parties and look at the justice that is being asked. After all of that has been completed, the panel will state its ruling.

The panel is made up of principals and district officials from around the state of Utah.

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