The Eagle-Tribune [North Andover MA]
November 12, 2021
By Jill Harmacinski
Stopping short of calling it an investigation, a spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey said her office has requested “more information” from both the Danvers schools and Police Department in light of allegations of sexual and physical abuse, racism and other unacceptable behavior among varsity hockey players.
Healey, through her spokesperson, described the accusations as disturbing and extremely troubling.
“Racism, homophobia, and bigotry of any kind have no place in our locker rooms, rinks and playing fields. If you think sports are about bullying and hazing, you’re losing, and our kids are paying the price,” Healey wrote in social media posts this week. The posts were not specific to the Danvers situation.
Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented thousands of Catholic Church sexual abuse victims, on Thursday called on Healey or federal authorities to investigate what he described as an “institutional coverup.”
A former varsity hockey player who declined to be named told authorities and news reporters that teammates engaged in racist and sexual misconduct during the 2019-2020 season.
In previous interviews with The Salem News, his account touched on hazing, racism, homophobic and sexual misconduct by the then- varsity hockey team. He said the toxic culture allowed younger players to be bullied and hushed.
Police and the district attorney’s office said the unnamed hockey player declined to file a criminal complaint and thus they cannot pursue charges.
Danvers school and police officials conducted investigations into the accusations earlier this year. They declined to release unredacted copies of the reports, contending privacy laws prevented full disclosure.
Some residents have called for the resignation of the School Committee and Superintendent Lisa Dana over the matter. The hockey coach, Danvers Police Sgt. Stephen Baldassare, resigned from the team in July.
Healey previously issued guidance to Massachusetts schools regarding “legal obligations to prevent and address hate and bias incidents.” Details were sent in November 2020 to school administrations throughout the state, according to the AG’s office.
When handling such incidents, Healey’s guidelines call for “transparency.”
“Hate incidents can have a significant and disruptive impact on the school community and are frequently the subject of broad community interest. Schools should strongly consider issuing a prompt and clear communication to the school community when a hate incident occurs, particularly when dealing with incidents that are serious, public, or likely to be the subject of rumors and gossip,” the guidelines suggest. “The communication should vigorously condemn hateful or biased conduct, explain the steps that the school is taking to address the incident, and reaffirm the shared values of the school community, such as respect for differences and a commitment to inclusivity, equity, and safety for all students.”
The former player spoke confidentially to the Salem News because he said he wanted to alert the community. He did not want his named used, fearing retribution from teammates and town hockey fans. He also spoke to school and police investigators.
He said he sensed his accounts of bad behavior were not taken seriously. He did not file a criminal complaint in order to protect himself.
He said he was told to strip naked for “Gay Tuesdays,” when older players would turn off the locker room lights and inappropriately touch younger players. Players who resisted were made to do so with force, he said.
He also said he was beaten with a sex toy for refusing to shout a racial slur on “Hard-R Fridays,” named for the final ‘r in the n-word. Players would line up in front of their hockey bags and scream racial slurs, one by one, he said.
“There was a team dildo,” he said, named the Pink Dragon, for use on those who refused to join in the ritual.
He said he believes Hard-R Fridays came about from a toxic culture where racist players wanted teammates to be like them.