By Steven Fletcher
Gloucester High School students who fired shots amid a national firestorm of racist epithets on Twitter.com last week are being handed significant suspensions from athletic programs and other sanctions, Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier has announced.
In a a prepared statement, Safier said students involved in a stream of racist comments targeting Joel Ward — the Washington Capitals' player whose goal eliminated the Boston Bruins from Stanley Cup play April 18, and one of hockey's few black players — would "lose participation in a sport for a considerable length of time," and any of them with "leadership opportunities in extracurricular activities, or sports," will forfeit those as well,
The district began investigating the incident last week; sources close to the probe have said that the schools identified five students as being involved in the postings. All of the racist comments, which included use of the "N word" and other derogatory remarks targeting blacks, were posted on Twitter.com, which, unlike text messaging, is not sent to private phones or other devices, but publicly available for view around the world. Anyone clicking on at least some of the students' "tweets" was able to easily identify they were from Gloucester.
"I want to state how profoundly disturbing such remarks area att any time and in any context," Safier said. "The racial epithets expressed were compounded by their publication on a national sports website. We take this issue seriously. Such misconduct contradicts the values and standards of Gloucester High School and the Gloucester Public Schools as a whole."
The district, he said, is taking steps to ensure that schools foster an atmosphere that teaches students to respect others, appreciate diversity, and model good citizenship. The students involved in the incident will be required to participate in an extensive program that looks at diversity through personal and environmental awareness, skill building and practical activities.
The schools are also working with the Student Council to develop a high school core values campaign and are reviewing the U.S. History curriculum with regard to it portrayal of the history of race in America.
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Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.