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Report: Roxbury Prep was subjected to ‘racially hostile environment’ in 2021 football game against Georgetown High

"Georgetown High failed to provide a safe and welcoming space for the Black players and coaches of the visiting team."

A new report concludes Roxbury Prep Charter School football players were subjected to a “racially hostile environment” when they were the visiting team during a game against Georgetown High School last fall, including several incidents involving racial slurs.

The 53-page report, released Thursday, follows a nine-month investigation by former federal prosecutor Giselle Joffre, who was commissioned by the two schools to probe allegations of racial taunts made during a Sept. 17, 2021 game.

Joffre found that four Georgetown students used racial slurs toward Black Roxbury Prep coaches and players, including the n-word and “monkey.”

And when Roxbury Prep made complaints about the slurs at halftime, game officials and Georgetown High administrators and coaches failed to address the issue in a “timely and effective manner,” wrote Joffre, an attorney at Foley Hoag LLP.

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“Ultimately, Georgetown High failed to provide a safe and welcoming space for the Black players and coaches of the visiting team,” Joffre wrote.

The report comes nearly a month after documents from an incomplete Georgetown police investigation into the allegations showed authorities found no evidence that racist language was used, although investigators did not speak to anyone from Roxbury Prep in their probe.

Georgetown-Roxbury Prep:

That police investigation was suspended when the two schools commissioned Joffre for the independent probe.

And despite accounts showing the Roxbury Prep team was subjected to racial slurs, not all allegations were resolved, Joffre wrote, adding there is “no clear, simple story to tell about what happened at the game.”

“The investigation was complex,” Joffre wrote. “Witnesses from both Roxbury Prep and Georgetown High often offered conflicting and competing versions of the events of the September 17, 2021 football game. Even witnesses from the same school offered versions of events that were often inconsistent and in tension with each other.”

Notably, the report states some Roxbury Prep coaches’ conduct “escalated tensions” during the game.

Joffre cites when one coach attempted to break up a fight by “forcibly throwing” a Georgetown player to the ground, and when another coach, immediately after the fight, grabbed a Georgetown player “by the facemask and brought him over to an official and Georgetown High coach.”

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“While this was done because Roxbury Prep Coach 01 heard this player use the N-word, that does not justify forcibly handling a minor from an opposing team,” Joffre wrote.

In a letter to the Roxbury Prep community, school Founder Shradha Patel and Athletic Director Dwayne Robinson said coaches will undergo training from the National Federation of State High School Associations, and the district will seek recommendations from the MIAA Sportsmanship Committee Liaison on “appropriate next steps.”

Still, the school would like to see an apology from Georgetown school officials, given the report’s finding that, “wholly and unequivocally,” Roxbury Prep students were honest about the language used by their opponents.

“We hope that the Georgetown School District will both apologize, take action to heal the harm, and take preventive steps to ensure that these highly inappropriate actions never happen again,” the letter states. “Our educators possess a strong commitment to repairing harm and resolving conflict in our community through restorative justice. We hope to engage with the Georgetown community to repair the harm from this incident, elicit apologies, and rebuild trust between our communities.”

Georgetown School Superintendent Carol Jacobs did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday morning.

Jacobs told the Boston Globe on Thursday school officials were still reviewing the report.

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“We are happy to see that the report is ready for release and since we just received it earlier today, we are in the process of reading and digesting the report,” Jacobs wrote in an email to the newspaper. “We will be releasing a statement soon but are not prepared to comment further at this time.”

The September game was the first ever between the two schools. Georgetown High School’s team is predominately white, while Roxbury Prep’s team is largely made up of Black and Hispanic students.

Before the game

Before the game even began, Roxbury Prep players, coaches, and parents were skeptical about being welcomed in Georgetown, according to the report.

On arrival at the field, Roxbury Prep had “perceived slights” when they were not provided a bench and had to request one from the Georgetown High staff before receiving one, according to the report. Joffre found, though, that there is no evidence Georgetown intentionally failed to initially provide the bench.

“Concerns were heightened when Roxbury Prep was placed on the sideline crowded by Georgetown High fans and spectators, which is where Georgetown High had always placed the visiting team,” the report reads. “Georgetown High failed to consider the potential perception of hostility that Roxbury Prep was
likely to experience during the game because of the close proximity of the Roxbury Prep sidelines to the Georgetown High fans.”

Joffre also noted that some Roxbury Prep players knelt during the national anthem before the start of the game in protest for racial justice, something that the team practiced at all games.

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“Some Georgetown High parents and players believed that Roxbury Prep players taking a knee during the national anthem was odd or disrespectful, with one parent asserting that Roxbury Prep approached the game with an ‘agenda,'” the report states.

Racial slurs

Starting at halftime, Roxbury Prep coaches reported to game officials that Georgetown players were using the n-word and other racist language, Joffre wrote. In the third quarter, a coach was also called the n-word by some Georgetown spectators.

Joffre found that two Georgetown student spectators used the slurs towards Roxbury Prep coaches — one of the students was Black, and the other was described as “middle-school aged.” At least one of these incidents was verified by both Roxbury Prep coaches and a Georgetown player.

Additionally, a Georgetown player used the n-word during a fight that broke out in the third quarter, and at least one Georgetown player used the word “monkey” in two instances, but evidence was inconclusive as to whether other players used the n-word, Joffre wrote.

Despite initial allegations on social media, Joffre found that no Georgetown coaches or faculty used racial slurs.

Two Roxbury Prep players used the n-word toward white Georgetown spectators “in an apparently confrontational way,” however, Joffre wrote.

“While the word … in these instances as used toward white people was
not intended as a racial slur, the word was intended to be antagonistic,” Joffre wrote. “This is distinct from Roxbury Prep players’ use of the word … amongst themselves in a friendly and conversational manner during the course of the game.”

‘Inadequate’ responses

Joffre’s report spells out that game officials and Georgetown administrators and coaches all failed to address the slurs “in a timely and effective manner,” thereby allowing tensions to rise to the point where an on-field fight broke out in the third quarter.

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“Roxbury Prep players and coaches were clearly, and increasingly, angry and emotional throughout the game,” the report states. “Players complained to coaches in real time, and coaches complained to officials as early as the second quarter, that Roxbury Prep players were being verbally abused with racial epithets during the game. No party responded to the complaints in a manner sufficient to address Roxbury Prep’s concerns or to curtail the conduct.”

In her findings, Joffre wrote that game officials are “largely untrained” about responding to complaints of race discrimination, and only alerted a Georgetown coach about the complaints at halftime.

“To their credit, in the second half, when the Roxbury Prep coaches complained of racial epithets from the Georgetown High fans, the officials then forced the Georgetown High fans to back away from the Roxbury Prep sidelines,” Joffre wrote.

“Beyond those two actions, however, officials not only did nothing; they dismissed Roxbury Prep’s repeated complaints,” she added.

The game officials, in written statements, said they did not hear any racial slurs uttered by Georgetown players.

“Similar to the game officials, Georgetown Coach 01 did not appear to take Roxbury Prep’s allegations seriously during or after the game, and wrote defensive statements that directly or implicitly cast blame on Roxbury Prep,” the report reads.

The game ended early in the fourth quarter after “an incensed Roxbury Prep team claimed that a Georgetown High player had used the N-word on the field during or after the play,” according to the report.

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Joffre wrote, however, that Roxbury Prep coaches “largely failed to deescalate tensions in the midst of complaints about racial slurs.”

“Roxbury Prep coaches exacerbated the clear tensions on the field — some of them racial tensions — from the beginning of the game, when they yelled at officials and loudly suggested that poor officiating was the product of racial bias or animus,” the report reads. “While tensions were clearly high during the game, Roxbury Prep coaches appeared to have lost control during the fight between the players, rushing the field and laying hands on Georgetown High players (albeit in an apparent attempt to separate players from each other in the scrum); this almost certainly made a bad situation worse.”

Joffre also found that members of the Georgetown team “engaged in unsportsmanlike cheering as the Roxbury Prep team left the field.”

“Both Roxbury Prep and Georgetown High were cooperative in Foley Hoag’s investigation,” Joffre wrote. “The schools both take the allegations seriously and intend to use the findings of this Report to inform their next steps.”

Read the full report:

Independent Investigation Report June 30 by Christopher Gavin on Scribd

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