Parents say racial slurs, actions used toward BHS players in Jamestown

The Jamestown Public School District investigated the incident.

bismarck high school boys hoops bench from 013123.jpg
Bismarck parents say racial slurs and actions were made toward Bismarck High School's Teysean Eaglestaff (33) and Andre Austin (35) on Tuesday, Jan. 31, during a game against Jamestown High School. Also seated, from left, are Jack Shaffer (54), Ty Luetzen (20), Preston Lemar (23), Ross Fischer (45) and Quin Hafner (24).
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN – Parents of Bismarck High School basketball players say racial slurs and actions were used toward minority players Tuesday, Jan. 31, during a game against Jamestown High School and nothing was done to stop it.

Quinn Austin said his son, Andre, who is Black, and teammate Teysean Eaglestaff, a Native American, from Bismarck High experienced multiple incidents from the Jamestown student section. He said derogatory remarks included making monkey sounds toward his son and chants of war whooping were made toward Eaglestaff. He said his son was called a derogatory term used toward Black people.

“Just to think of my son having to be out there all alone on a damn island and be ridiculed in front of everybody for what reason because he’s a minority? Because of his skin color?” he said. “It wasn’t because he was talking (trash) to the crowd. It wasn’t because he was doing some kind of extra stuff. … It’s really amazing that something like that would happen to them or anyone really.”

Drew Engelman, a parent from Bismarck, said in an email sent to Jamestown Public School District officials and to The Jamestown Sun that on top of the monkey sounds and racial slurs toward Andre Austin, Jamestown students could be heard yelling “banana” during his free-throw shots. He said students would pretend to pull back a bow and arrow aimed at Eaglestaff and made scalping motions toward him as well.

“The pure racist actions by your students is absolutely appalling and you should be ashamed,” he said in the email. “I cannot believe that we live in a day and age where high school students think that is acceptable behavior.”


Bismarck High School head basketball coach Jordan Wilhelm said in a tweet Wednesday that the school district condemns all forms of hate speech, racism and discrimination.

“@BHSDemonHoops has been built on the inclusion of the indigenous and minority athletes. We stand together. #DemonPride,” he said.

The Jamestown Public School District investigated the incident Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 1-2, and found that disparaging and/or racially insensitive remarks and actions were made by a handful of Jamestown Middle School and Jamestown High School students on Wednesday and Thursday, said Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Rob Lech, Jamestown High School Principal Adam Gehlhar and Jim Roaldson, activities director at the high school, in a joint statement.

“These actions are not supported by Jamestown Public Schools or the Community of Jamestown and have resulted in appropriate disciplinary action per our Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Policy (AAC),” the statement said. “Accepting accountability while creating a path to grow from this is who we are, and want to be, as Jamestown Blue Jays.”

The school district officials said Jamestown Public Schools is responsible for facilitating healing with Bismarck High School players, coaches, fans and community. The school district is partnering with Bismarck Public Schools to consider restorative practices, the statement said.

“Lastly, JHS student leaders have begun to mobilize to work alongside building administrators to consider how we, as a school family, can best grow and learn from these experiences with the goal of improving our cultural competence,” they said.

Austin said multiple things could have happened to avoid the situation that happened to the basketball players. Austin said parents were all around the student section who could have said something as well.

“If somebody was making racist remarks, I would personally go there and find somebody to get them out of there or find that kid, and show me where your parents are,” he said.


He said a school district official could have got up and said something in a microphone or to the students or referees could have kicked someone out.

“I’ve seen multiple times where referees kicked somebody out of the game for hounding them about calls and stuff,” he said. “You are going to kick somebody out for a call but you are not going to stop and say, ‘Hey, this is not acceptable. If I hear it again, somebody is getting kicked out of here.’”

John Ruff, who was officiating the game Tuesday, said he didn’t hear any racial comments.

“I never heard any racist stuff. We are paying attention to the ball game,” he said. “We hear things from the stands every once in a while but you don’t hear a lot. It’s loud in there. We are just doing our job.”

He said there are three officials during each game and none of them heard any racial slurs on Tuesday evening.

“If something happens, the guys (referees) will say, ‘They are pretty bad over there,’ and we will pay a little more attention to what is being said,” he said.

Ruff said the referees have the right to kick out anybody but they would rather have the school district administration do it.

Austin said he wants to see some repercussions from the incident. He also said there needs to be some kind of state law that says racism shouldn't be tolerated at any event.


“If you are not correcting it, you are condoning it,” he said. 

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
What To Read Next
Get Local