Amid starkly contradictory claims, the Georgetown school district has launched a special investigation into allegations by Roxbury Prep that its predominantly Black football team and coaches were targeted with racial slurs by parents, faculty, and staff of Georgetown High School at a game Sept. 17 in the North Shore community.
Tensions on both sides have run hot, as Roxbury Prep has held steadfast to its indignation and some Georgetown residents have pushed back against the allegations, saying the town and its student-athletes have been unjustly labeled racist.
Georgetown school superintendent Carol Jacobs said Friday, “In light of these serious claims raised by the Roxbury Prep football coaching staff, we have engaged a lawyer experienced in these matters to conduct an investigation, which is ongoing. I have informed Roxbury Prep that we are taking these allegations very seriously.”
Jacobs told the Georgetown school committee Thursday she was hiring an outside attorney to lead the investigation. She said that while the inquiry is necessary, its findings are unlikely to satisfy everyone.
“Nobody is going to win in this situation,” Jacobs said.
She said her goal is to fairly resolve the conflict and seek some common ground with Roxbury Prep, which has campuses in Roxbury and Hyde Park. Georgetown police are also investigating the incident.
“We’re trying to make decisions deliberately in an environment that is hostile and is loaded with emotion,” Jacobs said. “It’s not about right and wrong. It’s not about black and white. It’s about, how are we going to come together and figure this out?”
Roxbury Prep issued a statement Friday indicating the school expects Georgetown authorities to take disciplinary action against anyone found to have engaged in misconduct.
“Harassment and intimidation in any form is unacceptable, and the racist treatment and lack of appropriate supportive response experienced by our students and coaches was disturbing,” the statement said. “We have spoken with the superintendent and we let her know that we expect that those involved will be held accountable for their actions.”
Jacobs said she plans to ask Roxbury Prep to cooperate with Georgetown’s investigation. Roxbury Prep issued a statement Friday:
“Given the very serious nature of this situation, we welcome the superintendent’s intention to conduct an independent investigation. Our hope is that we can join her in this investigation as full and equal partners by jointly choosing an unbiased investigator that both Roxbury Prep and Georgetown feel comfortable with and who will thoroughly investigate the events of last Friday night. It is a good first step and in the meantime, we remain focused on supporting our school community as we navigate this challenging moment.’’
Georgetown was leading Roxbury Prep, 44-8, when a skirmish broke out among players on the field at the end of the third quarter. Both teams compete in Division 8, the state’s smallest football division.
Roxbury Prep’s first-year head coach Willie McGinnis told the Globe Monday that his players and coaching staff were targeted with racial slurs throughout the contest. At halftime, the coach said, he spoke to the referees and then addressed his team. The Globe’s efforts to reach the game officials have been unsuccessful.
“My message to the team was that we need to be better men and not react to the situation,” said McGinnis, who also is Roxbury Prep’s dean of students.
When an altercation between players ensued, Roxbury Prep coaches ran onto the field, according to video recordings of the incident. One coach appeared to grab a Georgetown player from behind and throw him to the ground. The game was halted after the incident.
A Roxbury Prep assistant coach, Jamaal Hunt, posted afterward on Facebook that his team was “ridiculed, called N-bombs by players, faculty, staff, spectators and were taunted all night.”
Not so, according to some Georgetown parents who attended the game. Eric Guyer, who watched closely from the Georgetown team’s sideline, said he and other parents who were working along Roxbury Prep’s sidelines never heard anyone from Georgetown utter a racial slur.
“By all accounts, it wasn’t true,” Guyer said. “No one yelled any N-words or any racial taunts. Just the usual, ‘You guys suck,’ from the student body.”
He said Georgetown has been unfairly vilified by many commenters on news and social media sites for the alleged racist conduct.
“At first I thought it was laughable,” Guyer said. “Then I read hundreds of comments about our season should be expunged.”
Both teams played Friday. Georgetown lost to KIPP Academy of Lynn, another ethnically diverse team. Roxbury Prep lost to Millis in Boston.
As a precaution, Georgetown limited attendance for its game, barring students and permitting entry to only two parents per player. Jacobs said she was working with the police on additional logistics, such as accommodating the news media.
As for the investigation, by an attorney Jacobs had yet to identify, she told the school committee she wants to make sure the findings will be “viewed as unbiased and objective.”
“Roxbury feels very strongly that this is what happened. We don’t have to agree with it, but we have to hear it,” Jacobs said. “They’re asking us to take what they’re saying seriously and try to sort out what happened. That’s what we’re doing. At the end of the day, they may not agree with the investigation. But the important thing is, what are we going to do about it?”
Players on both the Roxbury Prep and Georgetown teams remain dismayed by the incident and the subsequent public dispute, according to those familiar with them.
“Something good will come out of this. It’s unfortunate that it’s just a hurtful time. Roxbury is feeling hurt as well. Their emotions are very real, and we have to just appreciate that as well as understand what’s going on in our community,” Jacobs said. “I really would love to believe that the path forward is to have the two schools be able to come together and say, ‘This happened, let’s go forward.’ ”
Roxbury Prep, in its statement said, “Our priority will remain the safety and well-being of our community as we continue to advocate for racial justice, love, and respect.”
Globe correspondent Nate Weitzer contributed to this report.
Bob Hohler can be reached at email@example.com.