A Belleville High School homecoming skit in which two white students wore blackface and mocked freshmen at a rival high school has resulted in apologies and a schoolwide discussion about racism.
Belleville Superintendent Randy Freese said the "regrettable" episode could have been avoided if staff advisers had reviewed the skit beforehand. There was no procedure to do so before, but there will be in the future, Freese said.
"The parents have every right to be upset," Freese said. "It won't happen again."
Fred West, a Belleville resident and the father of a biracial student at New Glarus High School who was targeted in the skit, said when he heard about it "the only words I could think of were 'prejudice, racism and white supremacy.'"
"It was an egregious, humiliating act, and it just reeked of racism," West said.
West's son plays football and attended Belleville schools through eighth grade. He opted to attend New Glarus last spring partly because Belleville hadn't hired a new football coach by that time.
According to Freese, the sophomore class homecoming skit on Oct. 4 was a spoof of the NBC singing competition "The Voice." One of the judges on the show is singer Cee Lo Green, who is black, and a student in the skit darkened his face for the role.
The skit also featured contestants representing Belleville, Cambridge and New Glarus students. The sophomore portraying West's son also was in blackface, Freese said.
Blackface was historically used by whites in stereotypical portrayals of people of African descent and has long been viewed as derogatory. Still, it occasionally surfaces in movies or professional comedy, often as parody.
West said his son and another Belleville student who also enrolled at New Glarus were identified by name and portrayed as traitors. He called the skit a form of public bullying.
Freese agreed there was no reason for specific students to be named in the skit. He said "blackfacing" has a horrible connotation and "is nowhere near how our community feels about these issues."
"I can see where it would be considered another piece of bullying and harassment," Freese said.
The families of the New Glarus students targeted in the skit met with school staff, the students who put on the skit and their parents last Friday. At the meeting all parties involved offered apologies.
Belleville Principal Rick Conroy wrote a letter to parents Monday explaining what happened and apologizing. Students also had classroom discussions about the incident, Freese said.
"While these depictions were not done with malice, they represented bad judgment, were offensive to others and do not represent the high standards that we hold at Belleville High School," Conroy wrote. "For this we deeply apologize."
The Belleville and New Glarus-Monticello varsity football teams face off Friday night for the last game of the regular season.