DANVERS — Members of the town’s public teachers’ union slammed administrators for “a lack of transparency” over allegations of “racism, homophobia, antisemitism and bullying” involving a high school hockey team.
The teachers said they are “outraged that the leadership of Danvers Public Schools was not forthcoming with us or the community about the seriousness of the racism, homophobia, antisemitism and bullying taking place,” according to a statement released by the Danvers Teachers Association.
The DTA also praised the former player on the team who came forward and reported the allegations during the 2019-2020 season, which came to light recently through news reporting.
“We strongly commend the courageous actions of the hockey player who came forth with these allegations, and we support any other victims who may have been hesitant to do the same,” the teachers wrote in a statement released by DTA President Kathleen Murphy.
Potential discipline against Superintendent of Schools Lisa Dana is expected to be discussed at a School Committee meeting Monday night. School Committee members said during a meeting a week ago they intended to go behind closed doors in an executive session for the discussion.
School Committee member Robin Doherty called for Dana to be placed on leave last week, in the immediate aftermath of the player’s account being released.
A former varsity hockey player who declined to be named told authorities and news reporters that teammates engaged in racist and sexual misconduct during the 2019-2020 season.
In previous interviews with The Salem News, his account touched on hazing, racism, homophobic and sexual misconduct by the then-varsity hockey team. He said the toxic culture allowed younger players to be bullied and hushed.
Police and the district attorney’s office said the unnamed hockey player declined to file a criminal complaint and thus they cannot pursue charges.
Danvers school and police officials conducted investigations into the accusations earlier this year. They declined to release unredacted copies of the reports, contending privacy laws prevented full disclosure.
Some residents have called for the resignation of the School Committee and Dana over the matter. The hockey coach, Danvers police Sgt. Stephen Baldassare, resigned from the team in July.
Stopping short of calling it an investigation, a spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey said her office has requested “more information” from both the Danvers schools and Police Department in light of the allegations.
Healey, through her spokesperson, described the accusations as disturbing and extremely troubling.
Danvers teachers, in the statement, condemned “racism, homophobia, antisemitism and bullying and strive to make our schools welcoming and inclusive.”
“It was disturbing that the community had to learn about these episodes through a news investigation and not through direct communication with the educators in the school system,” according to the statement.
“The lack of communication from school district leadership around this issue allowed these hostile behaviors to fester in our schools. The school leadership’s secrecy prevented educators from playing an active role in addressing the racism, homophobia, antisemitism and bullying taking place,” according to teachers.
The Danvers Teachers Association said they “believe in fostering a positive and inclusive culture in our schools and remains committed to the work needed to achieve that culture.”
Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented thousands of Catholic Church sexual abuse victims, late last week called on Healey or federal authorities to investigate what he described as an “institutional coverup.”
Healey previously issued guidance to Massachusetts schools regarding “legal obligations to prevent and address hate and bias incidents.” Details were sent in November 2020 to school administrations throughout the state, according to the AG’s office.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.