Student athletes on the Duxbury High School football team used antisemitic audibles on the practice field as far back as 2010, routinely said a Christian prayer before games for years, and attended a Catholic Mass before the annual Thanksgiving game, an independent investigator has found.
Schools Superintendent John Antonucci released a summary of a 56-page investigative report composed by attorney Edward R. Mitnick of Just Training Solutions LLC in the wake of a scandal involving the team’s use of antisemitic play calls that led to the dismissal of longtime Duxbury football coach Dave Maimaron.
On Friday, Antonucci said Maimaron has resigned from his position as a special education teacher effective June 15. He has been on paid leave since the scandal erupted in spring.
The report’s findings will likely renew debate over the values and culture of the affluent South Shore town, particularly its schools, which is also ensnared in a controversy regarding allegations of child sex abuse against a former middle school teacher.
Antonucci said the inclusion of Christian prayer, holding a team Mass at Holy Family Church, and having a team meal at the church violated school rules.
“Both the condoning of a religious prayer by a team prior to a football game and the holding of a ‘Team Mass’ at a Catholic Church are blatant violations of School District Policy,” Antonucci wrote. “The prohibition of school prayer in the classroom is no less prohibited in a school related sports activity such as a public high school football game.”
He added, “The prohibition of these religious activities in association with a public school activity is clear. Such sectarian events can be seen as intimidating or coercive to students not of the Catholic faith.”
The high school’s successful football program was put in the spotlight after it was revealed that an offensive lineman used the word “Auschwitz” as a blocking audible during the March 12 game with Plymouth North High School. The Auschwitz complex was the largest Nazi death camp where some 1.1 million Jews, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war were murdered, according to the US Holocaust Museum.
“By all accounts, at that time [2010-2012] the varsity team started to use the word ‘Rabbi’ to call a play that had originally been called ‘Rabbit.’ ‘Rabbi’ then evolved into other Jewish terms such as ‘dreidel,’ ‘yarmulke’ and ‘Hanukkah’ being used for the ‘Rabbit’ play’’ Antonucci wrote. “The actions of the coaching staff in condoning the use of the above offensive terms for the ‘Rabbit’ play is clearly inconsistent with the District’s policies.”
The audibles, however, were not regularly used during the games, the investigation found. “Sufficient credible evidence was found to support the conclusion that coaching staff were aware of the use of such terms during practices,” Antonucci wrote. “There was not sufficient credible evidence suggesting that these terms were used during games in prior seasons.”
The investigation also found that coaching staff failed to model appropriate behavior for the student-athletes over the past several seasons, such as “use of profanity on the sidelines, as well as insensitive and homophobic slurs. Profane language was used as slogans by coaches and players.”
“Sexually offensive jokes and innuendo were used by coaching staff in front of players,” Antonucci wrote. “Coaching staff engaged in profane and vulgar language and condoned the use of profane and vulgar language by students.”
Maimaron issued a statement Friday explaining how the language used in the team’s plays evolved over years, starting in 2014 when they began using phrases to communicate the play to the lineman. He said the Jewish terms they associated with the play Rabbit — such as “rabbi” and “dreidel” — were conceived by Jewish players on the team “several years ago.”
“They claimed, tongue in cheek, that Jewish culture was ‘underrepresented’ in the football program,” Maimaron said in the statement.
Maimaron said he called the play only by its original name himself, but he acknowledged the other terms were being used by his players and said he should have put a stop to it.
“Although I, without exception, called ‘Rabbit’ in every situation, I was aware that these particular terms ... were being used by players,” he said. “In hindsight, from the start, I should never have permitted the derivation of any play call based on a Jewish theme. That was my mistake and I own that.”
Antonucci, who recently said he plans to leave the school district to become superintendent in North Attleborough, said Duxbury schools will respond in multiple ways to the report’s findings.
A “full external review” of the system’s athletic program is planned, including the handbook, how coaches are evaluated, and the role of booster organizations. The goal is to install best practices, Antonucci said. Additionally, the district will finalize the role that the “Athletic Advisory Committee” will play in the future.
Coaches for spring sports this season attended “extensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training,” Antoncucci said, while football players participated in a “mandatory Holocaust Presentation by a third-generation Holocaust Survivor. Players also participated in training on ‘Becoming an Ally and an Upstander’,” Antonucci said.
The district partnered with Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society and “will be training a core group of coaches and student athletes this fall ... to ensure that our coaches and student athletes understand how to confront biases, use respectful and sensitive language, and address racism and discrimination on our Duxbury sports teams,” Antonucci said.
Antonucci said “appropriate personnel action will be taken based upon the findings in the Investigation Report” but what actions are taken and against whom won’t be made public due to union contracts and state privacy laws.
Separately, former Duxbury Middle School gym teacher John Blake has filed a counterclaim against the parents of Parker Foley, saying in court papers that Foley’s parents have destroyed his reputation by claiming he sexually assaulted their son.
Blake’s repudiation of the allegations against him and the counterclaim that he has been slandered and libeled by Foley’s parents are in documents filed in US District Court, where the lawsuit by Foley’s parents against him and the Duxbury Public Schools is now pending.
Blake asserted that Joseph Foley and Melissa Foley “maliciously cause[d] written correspondence accusing the defendant, Blake, of despicable acts” as part of a campaign of “character assassination” that cost him both his reputation and career in the town school system.
“Said written statements were malicious and accused the defendant of crimes and constitute libel,” Blake’s attorney, Kevin J. Reddington of Brockton, wrote in court papers. “Said oral statements were malicious and accused the defendant of crimes and constitute slander.”
The Foleys have not responded to the counterclaim filed by Blake last month.
Separately, the Duxbury Public Schools said in court filings it should not be held legally responsible for the emotional trauma suffered by former student Parker Foley when he was allegedly sexually assaulted by Blake in the mid-2000s.
Foley’s parents have sued Blake and the school system alleging administrators failed to protect their son from Blake, whom they allege raped their son. Foley died of a drug overdose last fall at the age of 27.
The suit names both Blake and the school system as defendants and alleges that inappropriate touching of Foley by Blake escalated to rape and forced oral sex in the gym and empty classrooms at the middle school. According to the Foleys’ lawsuit, the alleged assaults stopped only when Parker Foley brought a knife to school and threatened his tormentor.
Blake has adamantly denied harming Foley and has not been charged criminally.
John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.