AP NEWS

Judge: Fans weren’t discriminated against at basketball game

January 4, 2019

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A judge backed a previous finding by the Human Rights Bureau that fans were not discriminated against at a high school basketball game in Montana.

Four Plenty Coups High School fans — who are all Native American — contended in November during a civil case trial that they were barred early entry to a high school basketball game Jan. 21, 2017, in Reed Point because of their race, The Billings Gazette reported .

Elsworth Goes Ahead, Brandy Goes Ahead, Emerine Whiteplume and Whitney Holds all claimed that a district employee told them that the school was “only letting white people in” before the game.

Stillwater Judge Blair Jones wrote that “the Court does not doubt that the Plaintiffs believe what they say they heard” but that he was “unable to conclude by a preponderance of evidence” that the comment was “correctly perceived,” according to his ruling released Thursday,

The trial was an extension of a complaint filed with the Montana Human Rights Bureau, which found “no reasonable cause” to believe discrimination occurred in a review of a complaint in January 2018.

The ruling called testimony from the plaintiffs and Teresa Bare — the school employee accused of making the comment and who denied making it — “equally credible” and “irreconcilable.”

“I would never have said, ‘we’re only letting white people in,’” she said. “It’s not in my character.”

The district’s attorney applauded Jones’ decision.

“We are especially pleased that the court found that the district’s athletic director is not the kind of person who would have made such an inappropriate comment,” attorney Jeff Weldon said Wednesday.

In an emailed statement, Alex Rate, one of the ACLU lawyers representing the fans, said he was “disappointed in the court’s decision.”

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com