Roxbury Prep High School and the Georgetown Public Schools have hired Boston attorney Giselle J. Joffre to conduct an impartial outside investigation of alleged racial taunting that occurred during a football game Sept. 17 in Georgetown, according to a joint statement they issued Monday.
“It is of critical importance that the facts of what occurred are brought to light, and we are confident that Attorney Joffre and her team will conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation,” the statement said.
Joffre, a partner in the litigation department at the Boston law firm Foley Hoag, is a former prosecutor in the US attorney’s office in Boston who has extensive experience in investigations of sensitive high-profile matters, according to the joint statement and her profile on Foley Hoag’s website.
Joffre is also listed as serving as a director of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association, a co-chair of the Boston Bar Association’s Women’s Leadership and Advancement Forum, and a member of the board of appeals for the town of Milton.
The game between Roxbury Prep and Georgetown was cut short in the second half after a melee broke out between the teams, with Georgetown leading, 44-8. Afterward, Roxbury Prep coaches said their predominantly Black and Hispanic team was taunted with racial epithets by Georgetown players, faculty, and staff during the game in the principally white North Shore community.
Several parents of Georgetown players who said they were positioned along both sidelines throughout the game have pushed back, insisting they never heard a racial taunt, while several parents of Roxbury Prep players have firmly disputed those assertions.
Georgetown school superintendent Carol Jacobs said at a school committee meeting in September, “Roxbury feels very strongly that this is what happened. We don’t have to agree with it, but we have to hear it.”
Jacobs initially said Georgetown would hire an outside investigator to examine the allegations. But when Roxbury Prep said the inquiry should be jointly authorized and managed, Georgetown ultimately agreed.
Former US attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, in an interview after the schools agreed to the joint investigation but before Joffre was hired, said, “One of the most significant aspects of this case is that you have the leadership of both institutions agreeing to collaborate and cooperate. Both parties are about education, so it’s important that they get to the bottom of what exactly happened because they’re dealing with kids and the sensitive issue of race.”
If any wrongdoing is found to have occurred, it’s crucial that both communities are fully informed about the investigator’s findings and that steps are taken to remediate the problem, Ortiz said.
Ortiz is now a partner at the Boston law firm Anderson and Kreiger. Joffre was one of her prosecutors in the US attorney’s office.
Georgetown police chief Donald Cudmore previously told the Globe his department’s inquiry is ongoing into video footage that appears to show a Roxbury Prep coach rushing onto the field during the melee, grabbing a Georgetown player from behind, and throwing him to the ground. Cudmore said he was waiting for the independent investigator’s findings before his department concludes its inquiry.
The joint statement from Roxbury Prep and Georgetown said, “We anticipate that the investigation will begin promptly as all parties are eager to understand the facts and, if applicable, take appropriate action.”
Bob Hohler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.