Someone allegedly said ‘Free Palestine’ during the high school basketball game that led to coach and player’s dismissal

By Nic F. Anderson, CNN

(CNN) — An investigation into allegations of antisemitic comments during a New York high school basketball game last week has found the comment “Free Palestine” was made, a public school system official said.

The game took place Thursday and was between the girls’ varsity teams from The Leffell School, a private Jewish school in Hartsdale, and Roosevelt High School Early College Studies, a public school in Yonkers.

In a statement following the incident, Yonkers Public Schools said the coach was dismissed and a player from the Roosevelt basketball team was removed and the investigation remained ongoing.

Luis Rodriguez, interim superintendent of Yonkers Public Schools, told CNN as of Monday afternoon, the investigation had found someone said “Free Palestine.” Adults who were present did not report hearing anything else, but officials probing the incident are still talking to others who were at the game, he said. There is no evidence anything was chanted, he added.

The separation of the coach was mutual and “in no way infers that the coach participated condoned, acquiesced in any (antisemitic) behavior,” Rodriguez said. Officials have not identified the coach or the player who were dismissed.

“Yonkers Public School District does not condone any type of bigotry,” Rodriguez said, adding further action was possible but would be “informed by the facts.”

CNN has reached out to The Leffell School for comment.

Robin Bosworth, a player for The Leffell School, wrote an op-ed for her online school newspaper after the game, alleging players on the opposing team shouted “antisemitic slurs and curses at us.”

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“Attacking a team because of their school’s religious association is never acceptable, but especially due to the current war in Israel and the world’s rise in antisemitism, this felt extremely personal to me and many members of my team,” Bosworth wrote.

Local official calls for training and education

Following the game, Westchester County Executive George Latimer invited leaders, coaches and players from the region to an educational roundtable to “facilitate open dialogue, promote understanding and provide education on how to engage with fellow players with respect and dignity,” the county said in a news release.

The county is also organizing a training session for staff working during the Section 1 Tournament to ensure that “all staff, patrons and players are treated with the utmost respect and dignity, fostering a positive and inclusive atmosphere.”

“The recent incident goes against the spirit of fair play and unity that these games are intended to foster,” Latimer said in a statement. “I am now calling on all members of the community to come together and condemn such behavior, emphasizing that unity is paramount, especially in challenging times.”

Rodriguez, who leads Yonkers Public Schools, said officials from both schools involved in the incident remain in communication.

He added the principal of Roosevelt High School asked Leffell if students from both teams can participate in a restorative circle to “have a forum to articulate their concerns” and be able to reach a resolution.

Previously, Yonkers Public Schools spokesperson Akeem Jamal had also said restoration efforts between Yonkers Public Schools and The Leffell School were underway and the two schools were expected to meet soon to discuss those measures.

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CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.

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