Sadly, it's not surprising that, when the Washington Capitals' Joel Ward scored his team's winning goal to eliminate the Boston Bruins from Stanley Cup contention last week, the very public social media realm of Twitter.com lit up with ugly, vile, ignorant racist comments targeting Ward, who is one of hockey's few black players.
Indeed, anyone who might have hoped that such blatant racism was a thing of the past needed only to scan Twitter for obscene uses of the so-called "N" word that night, and he or she would have been in for a very rude awakening.
What is profoundly troubling and disappointing, however, is that some of that racist rhetoric, it now seems, was spewed by Gloucester High School students, including at least three to five GHS athletes. And in that vein, Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier is absolutely right to conduct what he is calling "a full investigation" into the matter, with an eye toward considering "whether disciplinary action is warranted."
The answer to that question, quite simply, is "yes." And in some cases, that investigation shouldn't take much. While Saturday's Times story noted only the Twitter handles and addresses that spewed this hate, not the students' names, the haters didn't do a particularly good job of shielding their identities, or — once responders jumped onto their ugly posts — their school or hometown, either. And therein lies a problem.
While Safier and other school officials are also examining whether the schools have any jurisdiction to address this incident, they must make it absolutely clear to all that the racism spewed by these students in no way represents Gloucester High School or Gloucester itself. And that can only be done by ensuring that none of these students represents the school for a time as well.
Safier noted that he wants to "implement a strong educational component that looks at the social, moral, and legal aspects of such remarks." In that vein, all of these posters should not only be required to take such a program, which hopefully can begin next fall, but should also be barred from representing GHS in any extracurricular activities — sports or otherwise — until they've successfully completed it.
In the meantime, let's also remember that whatever penalty the school doles out won't address the root problem. That's not just the fact that these kids posted their racist sentiment, but the fact that they even think it.
Only they and their parents can truly change that.