School officials are investigating after Franklin High School fans heckled an opposing team’s players during a varsity baseball game with homophobic, racist, and antisemitic slurs.
Joshua Hanna, the principal of Franklin High School, said in a letter to families Friday that officials “denounce such behavior and are outraged” about the heckling, which had happened the night before and was directed at a team from Sharon.
“Our hearts go out to the Sharon community,” Hanna said. “There is no place for such behavior in our schools and at school events.”
The slurs were yelled by a group of Franklin fans gathered near a fence along the left-field outfield area during the night game held in Franklin, according to Hanna.
Sharon officials said the heckling did not involve players or coaches of Franklin’s baseball team, according to Hanna.
Robert Trestan, the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional director, said in a statement Saturday that the organization is working with Franklin school officials to determine what happened, and “the necessary next steps” for the community.
“It is especially concerning that the taunts allegedly came from fans, possibly including adults,” Trestan said. “Everyone should be able to watch or play sports without fear of being targeted because of their identity.”
He said the behavior “falls far short” of the role models that students need and expect.
Last month, the Anti-Defamation League reported a rise in antisemitic incidents. And last year, 108 incidents were reported in Massachusetts, an increase from 73 the previous year.
Among those cases was the use of Holocaust-related phrases by the Duxbury High School football team.
The ADL reported more than 2,700 antisemitic incidents across the United States last year, which is the most since it began tracking those reports in 1979, it said.
“We remain concerned with the increasing number of hate incidents connected to school athletics, which is a sign of the toxic culture in too many locker rooms, fields, and arenas,” Trestan said Saturday.
Franklin police, in a statement posted to Facebook on Friday, blasted the incident and said it “in no way supports or condones this alleged behavior.” They are assisting the school department in its investigation, according to the statement.
“If information arises that warrants a criminal investigation one will be opened,” police said.
Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey has reached out to Franklin’s police chief to offer assistance if needed, according to David Traub, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.
“DA Morrissey called the report appalling,” Traub said Saturday.
Hanna said officials are asking anyone with information about the incident to contact him.
People who are identified as having participated will face disciplinary consequences and “education in accordance with the Franklin High School handbook,” according to Hanna.
“We will also take appropriate steps to remedy the negative impact of these acts on the school community and restore a sense of safety and support for all,” Hanna said.
In a brief statement posted to Facebook, Sharon High School’s baseball team said the incident has been brought to the attention of the administrations at both schools and is under investigation.
“An investigation is being conducted and answers will be forthcoming pending the outcome of the investigation,” the statement said.
Sara E. Ahern, the superintendent of Franklin Public Schools, told families in a separate e-mail Friday evening that she experienced “deep concern and outrage.”
“Our core values include providing an inclusive environment and we seek to have each member of our community and guests and visitors feel safe and supported,” Ahern said. “Our thoughts are with the Sharon community, and especially with the players involved. We remain committed to supporting all children and are collaborating across districts to do so.”
Hanna said the behavior is “highly inconsistent” with the core values and the inclusive culture people are committed to creating at Franklin High School.
On Monday, students, faculty, and staff at the school will have the opportunity to meet with a counselor or administration official to discuss their feelings about what happened, according to Hanna. The school is also increasing supervision at events.
“We recognize that this news brings pain and fear to our school community and we are committed to making sure our students feel safe and supported,” Hanna said.
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.