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Massachusetts high school hockey team is accused of hazing and racist incidents

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Members of a high school hockey team are accused of both hazing and racial slurs. In fact, the story is that team members were forced to say a racial slur. This is now the focus of debate in Danvers, Mass. We're spending about four minutes on this story that some people may find disturbing. So if you need to go away, come back in four minutes; we'll still be here. We have an update from Esteban Bustillos from member station GBH in Boston. Good morning.

ESTEBAN BUSTILLOS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How'd this come to light?

BUSTILLOS: So over the weekend, the Boston Globe published a story detailing how the 2019-2020 Danvers High boys hockey team engaged in a number of shocking behaviors and rituals. The player who spoke to the Globe on the condition of anonymity said he was held down by teammates and repeatedly struck in the face with a sex toy because he refused to say the N-word. This was a team ritual among the all-white members of the hockey team. In addition, the Globe reported details about a locker room ritual where players were allegedly forced to strip naked and touch each other in the dark. Half of the team members reportedly were active in a group chat that contained racist and anti-Semitic jokes. It was last summer when the team member reported to school officials having been hit, as well as touched inappropriately.

INSKEEP: Says he reported to school officials months ago, so what did school officials do, or what are they doing now?

BUSTILLOS: So authorities have ordered a total of three investigations, but no adult has taken responsibility for the team's alleged actions. The Danvers High hockey coach at the time, Steve Baldassare, who is also a police officer in Danvers, denied having any knowledge of the alleged abuse. He resigned from the coaching position earlier this year. School and town officials have been less than forthcoming with information about what happens. They provided a redacted copy of a special investigators' report to the Globe only after being ordered to do so in August by the state.

INSKEEP: Well, if this was quiet for a while, it's got to be a big subject of conversation now.

BUSTILLOS: Yeah. And at a school committee meeting on Monday, which is the equivalent of a school board, the emotions were high. Now, some members of the school committee were more defensive of their response. But one of the school committee members called for the superintendent, Lisa Dana, to be placed on leave while the committee figures out the next steps. Alice Campbell, another committee member, seconded that motion.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALICE CAMPBELL: I do not believe appropriate action or discipline was taken following the independent investigation into the accusation of racism and hazing within our high school hockey program. It is unacceptable that not a single adult was held accountable. I believe with the lack of real action, we failed our students, teachers, parents, caregivers and community members.

INSKEEP: What are parents saying about all this?

BUSTILLOS: Well, one parent in attendance Monday, Gabe Lopes, stood in front of the local school committee and was very blunt.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GABE LOPES: Some of you folks, specifically here, please step down, and let the town heal and start over.

BUSTILLOS: I went to Danvers yesterday, and I talked to Bob Murphy. He has lived in Danvers for 18 years, and his two children graduated from Danvers High.

BOB MURPHY: I think it's - we're hurt. I think we're hurting for kids. I think we're - for the right reasons. I think the community is reeling and trying to kind of discover where our identity is.

BUSTILLOS: The school's committee is set to meet next Monday to further discuss placing Superintendent Lisa Dana on leave.

INSKEEP: Wow. Trying to discover where our identity is, he says. Esteban Bustillos from GBH in Boston. Thanks so much.

BUSTILLOS: Thank you, Steve.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINEWAVE'S "STAR TRIPPING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.