COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Hoover High School’s football coach claims Thomas Jefferson High School students tormented his players with racist threats after their game ended Friday. In dueling statements, Council Bluffs Schools has denied any evidence of racist actions while Des Moines Public Schools is standing by their coach and players.

“Some of my guys at Hoover would give you exactly what was said,” said Hoover coach Theo Evans in an interview with WHO 13 Monday. “Some of what I heard was, ‘kill yourself, hang yourself.’ Definitely n-word usage all over the place. Those guys could get into more specifics if they felt like they wanted to tell you.”

A Des Moines Public Schools spokesperson backed up Evans’ account and chastised Council Bluffs Schools for the statements it made on the Hoover-Jefferson fight. DMPS communications director Philip Roeder accused Council Bluffs Schools of writing “a denial of bad behavior and a poor attempt at spin and a ‘both sides’ argument.”

Des Moines Public Schools’ statement, which was sent to WHO 13 Wednesday night:

“We are shocked to see the statement released by Council Bluffs school district staff – five days after the fact – attempting to reverse sincere apologies from their high school’s principal and athletic director, made as early as last Friday night, about the behavior of some of their students at the game. More concerning, however, is accusing Hoover High School’s coach and students of lying about being subjected to overt racism. Students heard the n-word and suggestions that they should hang themselves as they tried to leave the field. What we had hoped would be a learning experience for the Council Bluffs students involved has instead turned into a denial of bad behavior and a poor attempt at spin and a ‘both sides’ argument.”

Philip Roeder, Des Moines Public Schools Communications Director

DMPS’ response comes after Council Bluffs Schools spokesperson sent two statements about the incident to WHO 13. The first, released on Tuesday took a more apologetic tone; the second, released Wednesday afternoon, directly accused Hoover of “unfairly exaggerating” the conflict. It also said the school district found no evidence of racism from Jefferson students.

The second statement from Council Bluffs Schools:

‘It is unfortunate the statements being made by Hoover high school representatives have unfairly exaggerated the (roughly 2-minute) exchange between our students and the Hoover players on the field with unsubstantiated claims of throwing items. More disturbingly, claims of racist behavior have dominated the headlines with no direct evidence. Racism in any form is not tolerated in our school district.

Video from the game provides evidence that the reports of one-sided aggressiveness are inaccurate. A few of the Hoover players went out of their way to engage with the TJ students. They can be seen walking away from the direction of the locker room to engage in aggressive behavior, such as shoving TJ students. The reports of large crowds near the player’s bus after the game are also not supported by the security video footage in the area.

None of the specific concerns about these claims were brought to our attention before the Hoover coach posted on social media or was interviewed by the news. We were not given the opportunity to investigate or confirm their account of events. We would have certainly collaborated with them to complete an investigation.

We regret that our Thomas Jefferson student section did not wait to rush the field before the Hoover football team had exited to the locker room on Friday. We understand, however, that the students were naturally excited for the Homecoming game win and wanted to celebrate with our players.

We do not condone demeaning or aggressive language, and have addressed the inappropriate behavior of three students that evening. The actions of a small number of students do not reflect the student body, the school culture, or the respect for diversity that is prevalent at Thomas Jefferson High School. I can speak on behalf of the school district and the school that these claims will not define our students and school community.

As a school district, we will review with student the protocols for fan interaction at future school athletic events.’

Diane Ostrowski, Council Bluffs Schools Chief Communication Officer