KEARNEY, NE — Administrators at Kearney High School and Lincoln High School are investigating allegations of Kearney students directing hateful language towards Lincoln High volleyball players.

Kearney beat Lincoln High 3-1 in a match in Kearney on Tuesday night. Shortly after, a Links player posted to social media alleging that Kearney students called players offensive names and touched them when they were trying to serve.

“My heart hurts and is so heavy writing this,” the post said. “My teammates and I felt unsafe and disgusted.”

The post accuses Kearney Activities Director Ryan Hogue of telling Lincoln High Coach Stephanie Wilcox to “coach her game” when she brought concerns to him. 

“Kearney is a school that doesn’t hold their students to a high level, lets their kids say anything without any repercussions and is okay with degrading women,” the post said.

Lincoln High Principal Mark Larson sent a message to families of volleyball players on Wednesday afternoon acknowledging reports of “inappropriate comments and actions from spectators.” Larson said in the message that student safety is one of the school’s top priorities and that he will update families when the investigation is complete.

Kearney High administration responded to the allegations about an hour and a half after the message went out to Lincoln High parents. In a news release, Hogue said Wilcox contacted him during the game.

“I told the coach that I would make sure this didn’t happen anymore and to continue coaching her team. In retrospect, I wish I would have taken different steps at that time to identify potential student misconduct.”

Hogue didn’t confirm or deny the use of hateful language or that players were touched.

“While it may be difficult to prove any misconduct occurred with our students today, we do apologize to the Lincoln High volleyball coaching staff and team for any potential misconduct that might have occurred.”

Kearney High Principal Jeff Ganz said there will be consequences for any students found to be guilty of misconduct and encouraged other fans to report inappropriate behavior.

“This type of behavior is not to be accepted at KHS,” Ganz said. “Kearney High School is making proactive changes to our game management practices and procedures to ensure a positive game experience for all teams competing at KHS.”

Kearney Public Schools Superintendent Jason Mundorf said he was at Tuesday’s game but was on the opposite end of the floor and didn’t witness any of the allegations. 

“I apologize on behalf of Kearney Public Schools for anything that might have been said or for inappropriate conduct that may have occurred. That is not indicative of what Kearney Public Schools represents,” Mundorf said. “Furthermore, I have the utmost confidence in Ryan Hogue and Jeff Ganz to develop game management plans and protocols that will ensure our students continue supporting our team in a respectful and honorable fashion.”

This is not the first time a Lincoln High girls sports team claimed to be the target of offensive language when at a road venue. In 2020, the Links girls basketball team said Fremont fans directed racial slurs at players. Some fans then got into an altercation after the game. The two schools later investigated the incident. Fremont apologized and the Tigers’ girls basketball team wrote letters to the Lincoln High team.