Parents and community leaders want a Massachusetts school superintendent to hit the road after allegations of racist and homophobic hazing by a high school’s sports team was covered up for nearly a year and a half.
In a bombshell report over the weekend, the Boston Globe interviewed a hockey team player who said he was subjected to taunts and sexual abuse by other team members. The player told a school official in mid-2020 but the school kept the allegations secret and fought the Globe’s attempts to publicize them.
About 35 people, some with protest signs, attended a tense meeting at Danvers High School on Monday night and rallied for any school officials who were responsible for mishandling the incident to resign, according to the Globe.
School board member Robin Doherty called for Superintendent Lisa Dana to be immediately put on leave “while the School Committee can ascertain the best path moving forward for the administration and students.” Dana reportedly told the board that she is dedicated to improving diversity in the school district and has a plan to address the incident.
However, according to the Globe, some board members didn’t seem to trust her plan of action. The panel held a vote to remove Dana for the time being.
Board member Alice Campbell said, “It is unacceptable that not a single adult was held accountable. With a lack of real action, we failed our students, parents, caregivers, and community members.”
The hockey player alleged that that he was assaulted with a sex toy in the locker room when he did not, as instructed, use a racial slur, according to the Globe’s Nov. 6 report. The newspaper reported that the ritual was known as “Hard R Fridays,” with the “R” referencing the last letter of the N-word.
There were also “Gay Tuesdays,” according to the report. The hockey player said that the all-white team would have a day where they took off their clothes in the locker room and assaulted him.
A number of teammates were active in a group chat that centered around offensive language, according to the Globe, with jokes about Jews and the Holocaust as well as a joke mocking a Black student at Danvers High being lynched.
The hazing allegations only came to light when the school began an unrelated probe after three players allegedly shouted racial slurs at Black workers while waving a “Trump 2020” flag.
According to the Globe, school officials said they hired a private investigator when the allegations were first made and reported it to the police, who dismissed it as locker room hijinks. School committee chairman Eric Crane admitted to the Globe that parents were not given the full details of the allegations in order to ensure students’ safety, but parents now say they weren’t notified at all.
Since the ordeal, the hockey coach, Stephen Baldassare, who previously served as a sergeant with the Danvers police, has resigned. NBC 7 Boston reports that he has denied any knowledge of the alleged hazing.
In a statement to the Globe, Dana said, “We do not tolerate and will continue to address racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-[Semitic] language and actions. We continue to move forward as an equity seeking district. It is important for us as community leaders and educators to help our students realize the power of their words and decisions while providing them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and become productive, responsible, caring citizens of the community.”
The board will meet again on Nov. 15 to decide Dana’s future.