Marion community protests racist incident at high school
April 26, 2021
Updated 4/26 8:27 p.m.
Updated 4/27 10:58 a.m.
Marion High School has put track coach Sara Baker on “administrative leave” as students, parents and other members of the community gathered at the high school to protest a racist comment the coach made to a Black member of the team.
On April 23, Asia Gosett posted on Facebook that Baker called her 15-year-old sister a ‘Black-footed African from the third world’ and told to turn in her team jersey. The post was shared over 2,100 times and a rally was organized for Monday.
Superintendent Keith Oates released a message on social media that said, “The coach apologized to the student and her parent during a recent meeting, and the district is currently working with the family towards a collaborative resolution.”
Baker has been placed on administrative leave, Oates said to the protesters. It is unclear whether or not this leave is paid and Oates refused to specify.
Over 30 protesters gathered Monday at Harry L. Crisp Sports Complex and they then marched to the high school while chanting ‘Black students matter’ and calling for Baker to be fired. Police followed the protesters.
They reached the parking lot and met with Marion Mayor Mike Absher and Oates. The two said little to protesters, who expressed their grievances and asked questions regarding the investigation.
Oates declined an interview with the Daily Egyptian, but told the protesters there is a process that must be followed. He did not specify the outcome or whether the school board is involved.
Absher said to the protesters, at best, this was an “extraordinarily insensitive comment”. He also said he knew he would not be able to keep his job if he said the same comment. He said he did not know whether or not the comment was racial. “I believe they need to let the process happen,” Absher said.
“What’s the process if she has already admitted to it?” Akeem Petty, a protester, said. “If I walk into a courtroom and say I admit to murder, there is no longer a trial. Because I admitted it, I am guilty, there’s no process to figure out if I am guilty.”
Protesters went back into the street and police made a line, blocking it off. One officer threatened to put those who crossed the line in handcuffs. Another officer brought his dog in a vest out, who barked at the protesters.
Other officers stood to the side, interacting calmly with protesters. Petty said in a Facebook post after the protest he spoke with the Chief of the police for over an hour.
Staff reporter Keaton Yates can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @keatsians. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.