High School Sports

Report: Danvers officials hid alleged sexual, racist abuse by high school hockey team

Here's what to know.

The Boston Globe, File

Danvers officials have concealed from the public the details of disturbing alleged racist and sexual abuse among members of the high school’s varsity boys’ hockey team since the allegations first rose to their attention last year, according to a new Boston Globe report.

Players engaged in a locker room tradition of sorts they referred to as “Hard R Fridays,” where victims had to shout the n-word — specifically with a “hard R” pronunciation — or else be beaten with a sex toy, one player, a victim, told school officials in June 2020, the newspaper reports.

The player, who was unnamed in the report, also told a special investigator hired by the Danvers School Committee, police, and other officials a player inappropriately touched him after the team stripped naked for something they called “Gay Tuesdays,” the Globe reports.

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In that scenario, players took off their clothes in a dark locker room and “then people go around touching people, and when the lights come back on, you have to guess who’s touching you,” the unnamed player said.

According to the newspaper, details of both team rituals came to light for school officials after they launched a probe into the hockey team when they received complaints three senior members of the team waved a “Trump 2020” flag from a Jeep as they participated in the school’s rolling graduation last year. People at the parade told authorities the trio shouted racial slurs at a Black sanitation crew alongside the route, although the students ultimately denied doing so.

School leaders also learned of a group text chat among members of the 2019-2020 hockey team that allegedly included a crass joke regarding Jews murdered in the Holocaust “while numerous other (messages) included videos making light of the violent deaths of Black people, and one mocked an image of a Black Danvers High student, suggesting he was being lynched,” the Globe wrote. According to the Globe:

“Town officials have compiled two investigative reports and commissioned a third on the matter, but school officials and police have yet to inform the community about the alleged violent racist and homophobic locker room behavior or details of the virulent group text messages.

“The response by town officials has in effect shielded from public scrutiny allegations that could reflect poorly on a prominent Danvers police sergeant, Stephen Baldassare, who was the hockey team’s head coach at the time of the reported incidents and for many years worked as a resource officer in the high school. He has since resigned as the hockey coach.

“Baldassare did not respond to interview requests from the Globe but has denied to investigators knowing anything about the alleged misconduct, according to town officials.”

Danvers officials this year tried to block the Globe‘s requests for details of the reports but were forced to yield a redacted copy in August by state public records authorities, the newspaper reports. Still, a less redacted version was not made available until last week only after another Globe appeal and state order.

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According to the Globe, the Danvers School Committee has also declined to discuss details of the alleged incidents.

“This is not because we are trying to sweep things under the rug or because there is some kind of coverup,” then-chairman David Thomson said in a statement read at the committee’s March meeting. “It is simply because when employees, minors, and third-party witnesses are involved, there is a certain level of privacy that individuals are legally entitled to.”

In a statement to the newspaper, Superintendent Lisa Dana said: “We do not tolerate and will continue to address racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-sematic [sic] 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.”

Read the full Boston Globe report.

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