Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School’s junior prom was cut short on April 28 after one or more students were heard yelling a racial slur while a song was playing, school officials said.
“While the music was playing and students were dancing, one or more students yelled the N-word,” Superintendent Eric Tracy said Monday in a letter to Hamilton-Wenham families. “This racial slur was heard by a number of our students and was very upsetting to them.”
Tracy said high school principal Bryan Menegoni made the decision to end the prom early and address all of the students directly. He immediately opened an investigation of the incident.
School officials also have asked the police to investigate, he said.
Tracy said the song that was playing when the student (or students) yelled the slur was appropriate for radio. WCVB reported the song was “Caroline” by Aminé.
“Unfortunately, there is some considerable deflection happening on social media,” Tracy said in the letter. “Some people are pointing at the DJ and administration for playing/approving the song in question. All music played at the prom was radio appropriate as it is a standard of the DJ before being hired.”
In the letter, Tracy said on Monday morning members of the junior class joined the principal, class advisers, class officers, and a number of teachers to discuss the seriousness of what transpired at the prom.
“While there was a very somber tone, they used the opportunity to talk about growth as a class — learning and understanding issues of racism and working together with their affected peers to understand the impact of language,” Tracy said in the letter.
“Racist incidents like this will not be tolerated in our schools or at school events,” he continued. “Our schools and school events must always be safe spaces for our students. We will continue to work together to make that a reality.”
Tracy said Menegoni also wrote to the students who were at the prom, telling them that steps need to be taken to “repair the harm that has been done.”
“Our students need to hear that what happened was wrong and that as a community we need to stand together against hurtful and racist language,” Menegoni wrote. “At the same time, we will take the necessary steps to determine who spoke this hateful word and apply appropriate disciplinary action. I want to acknowledge that this word is hateful, hurtful, and shameful, and has no place anywhere in our school community. I am upset and disappointed that even one of our students would ever use this word in any context.”