LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska education coalition is pledging to lead efforts to challenge discriminatory comments or behavior in the wake of racially charged incidents at school sporting events.

Leaders of eight education organizations on Wednesday signed a "statement of principle on human dignity" to address the issue after a school district's athletic director brought attention to racial slurs made at Hispanic athletes, The Lincoln Journal Star reported . Discriminatory comments, harassment and the intimidation of students are unacceptable and school officials should play an active role in preventing such actions, the statement said.

Schuyler Public Schools Athletic Director Jim Kasik wrote in a letter last year that many of his Hispanic athletes face racial taunts on a regular basis. He said 80 percent of the district's students are Hispanic and they are spit on, called racist names or told to go back home.

Kasik called the statement a good start to addressing the problem.

"I don't think a piece of paper will change people's views," he said. "However, if that piece of paper gets people to talk about issues and what other people (immigrants and people from different backgrounds) are experiencing, that's a step in the right direction."

The statement echoes a speech State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt made at the beginning of the school year, where he called on administrators to challenge derogatory or racist comments made at school, sporting events or in the community.

"We have to be thoughtful about how we as adults, how we as teachers and educators, lead the way in demonstrating the importance of representing and respecting every student in our schools all across the state of Nebraska," said Blomstedt.

The Nebraska Council of School Administrators, the Nebraska School Activities Association, the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association, the Nebraska Coaches Association and the Nebraska State Athletic Administrators Association were among the groups to sign the statement.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,