By Beth David, Editor
Some members of the Old Rochester Regional High School/ Fairhaven High School hockey team have been banned from playing for the 2021-2022 season.
ORR Superintendent Michael Nelson and Fairhaven Public Schools Superintendent Tara Kohler issued a joint press release on 11/15/21 announcing that an investigation had been completed surrounding accusations of hazing involving the districts’ joint varsity hockey program.
“The investigation found that hazing did occur and that multiple members of the joint hockey team violated school policies,” reads the press release.
On October 19, a staff member of ORRHS notified administrators of a video circulating among students showing a member of the hockey team “apparently being subjected to an act of hazing by teammates.”
The press release did not give any details on the nature of the hazing.
“All of these events are serious, in my opinion, if they have to do with any type of initiation,” said Ms. Kohler in a phone interview. She would not go into detail about the incident, but did acknowledge that the nature of the accusation warranted the punishment. “Any hazing is atrocious, I don’t care what it is. There’s just no place for it. We’ve got to be respectful of one another.”
She said both districts agreed to the punishment.
“Participation in sports is a privilege, not a right,” she said.
Ms. Kohler was hired as FHS principal after a hazing incident involving FHS football players gained national attention in 2006, and the principal disappeared from view, eventually retiring. The district was widely seen as not handling the incident well. Criminal charges were brought in that case, which also happened out of Fairhaven.
“I don’t try to look back,” said Ms. Kohler. “I try to look forward and see how to change things.”
Ms. Kohler said she could not comment on whether or not criminal charges would be filed, but as of our interview, none had been. She said authority for the team is with ORR, and the jurisdiction for criminal charges would be in Bourne, where the incident took place.
The statement says that the Mattapoisett School Resource Officer was notified, and both athletic directors were in “constant communication with one another.”
“The investigation identified multiple students involved in the hazing as well as multiple student witnesses to the hazing,” said the press release.
The investigation, which was conducted by ORR administrators in consultation with Fairhaven Public Schools administrators, found that a student-athlete on the hockey team was the victim of hazing carried out by multiple teammates on October 17 in the locker room of Gallo Ice Arena in Bourne. The team was participating in an independent event that had been organized by a parent, and no athletic staff or coaches from either school were involved or present. Students from both ORRHS and Fairhaven High School were present at the time of the incident.
Ms. Kohler said that they are still “researching and investigating” how the practice came to be. She said a parent “allegedly” rented the ice, but only invited the team to skate.
“So, we’re still in the middle of it,” she said.
The statement said the two districts are reviewing policies regarding team activities that occur “outside the purview of school athletics staff.”
“The students found to have participated in the hazing have been disciplined in a manner consistent with both schools’ student handbooks and will be banned from participation on the hockey team for the 2021-2022 season,” reads the press release.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has been notified of the incident and ORR has shared the results of the investigation with the MIAA.
The districts will also conduct additional training with all student-athletes and coaches on recognizing, preventing and responding to hazing.
“This is a deeply disappointing and troubling incident. We expect our students to treat each other with kindness and respect at all times, both inside and outside of school,” Superintendent Nelson said. “An ORRHS staff member did the right thing by bringing their concerns to the attention of our administrators so that it could be appropriately investigated and addressed. We will be working to ensure our students understand the impact their behavior has on others so that incidents like this do not happen again.”
“I was upset to learn of this incident, but am confident that this investigation was a thorough examination of what occurred,” Ms. Kohler said in the joint statement. “Athletic and co-curricular activities are meant to be enriching experiences for our students, and we will not tolerate hazing in any of our programs. I am hopeful that this incident will serve as a reminder to all that we expect everyone in our school community to act with respect and integrity at all times.”
In the phone interview, Ms. Kohler reiterated the sentiment.
“It’s the expectation that our students in school and out of school are respectful,” she said. “It’s a valuable lesson that can be learned and we can move forward.”
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