The Georgetown Public Schools, responding to a critical independent investigator’s report, apologized late Friday for “reprehensible” racial slurs and other hostile conditions that caused Roxbury Prep’s football team to feel unsafe during a tumultuous game last fall at the North Shore high school.
The investigator, former federal prosecutor Giselle Joffre, found that four Georgetown students, including two players, directed racial epithets at Roxbury Prep coaches and players and that Georgetown’s head coach was among school officials who failed to adequately respond at the time to complaints of verbal abuse.
“I want to say clearly that I am saddened and embarrassed after reading this report about the behavior of two members of the football team and two members of the student body and our head coach,” Georgetown School Superintendent Carol Jacobs said in a statement posted on the school system’s website. “It is truly unfortunate that the Roxbury Prep coaches, players, and fans felt insulted and disrespected because of the actions of these students.”
But Jacobs expressed dismay at the additional damage caused to Georgetown’s image by Roxbury Prep coaches and supporters who, according to the investigative report, falsely accused Georgetown coaches, faculty, and staff of targeting them with racial slurs.
“These inflammatory allegations were covered by the national media, and while almost all of these accusations were refuted in the investigator’s report, they served to subject our community to unwarranted scorn that was not deserved and that we will always have to bear,” Jacobs said.
Many Georgetown residents have expressed anger that nine months passed before the 53-page report said publicly that the allegations were false. Some have cited the high legal costs related to the incident — more than $100,000 for Georgetown alone — but have supported the district’s handling of the matter.
“Carol Jacobs deserves high praise for the steadfast way she has coped with the tremendous challenges of this situation, doing her best to balance conflicting perspectives within the town and beyond while maintaining her position that both Roxbury Prep and Georgetown should acknowledge and take responsibility for their contributions to the conflict,” said Kristin Lund, a 15-year Georgetown resident whose son will attend the high school in the fall.
Jacobs said the controversy “could have been handled better by the schools working together to resolve the situation, rather than posting fabricated accusations on social media.”
She said, “I also hope the Roxbury coaches will apologize for exaggerating the facts and labeling the entire community of Georgetown for the actions of a few.”
The Georgetown school’s enrollment is more than 90 percent white and about 1 percent Black, while Roxbury Prep’s is about 97 percent Black and Hispanic and 1 percent white, according to the most recent state data.
The investigator reported, “Ultimately, Georgetown High failed to provide a safe and welcoming space for the Black players and coaches of the visiting team.” She also concluded the “Roxbury Prep team was subjected to a racially hostile environment.”
The game was the first between the teams, and it ended in the fourth quarter, with Roxbury Prep trailing, 44-8, after a brawl had broken out in which two Roxbury Prep coaches physically accosted Georgetown players, Joffre reported.
Roxbury Prep, in a letter to its school community from founder Shradha M. Patel and athletic director Dwayne Robinson, apologized to Georgetown students, staff, and community for the altercations.
“As a community, we believe in taking responsibility for our actions, admitting our mistakes, and seeking to learn and do better moving forward,” Roxbury Prep said.
The school’s statement, however, did not specifically address Roxbury Prep coaches falsely accusing Georgetown coaches, faculty, and staff of targeting them with racial epithets. The Roxbury Prep assistant coach who first posted the allegations on social media has since left the school.
Instead, Roxbury Prep’s statement said, “Our educators possess a strong commitment to repairing harm and resolving conflict in our community through restorative justice. We hope to engage with the Georgetown community to repair the harm from this incident, elicit apologies, and rebuild trust between our communities.”
For Georgetown’s part, the investigator faulted school administrators, coaches, and game officials for failing to address complaints about racial slurs “in a timely and effective manner.”
With the findings now in hand, Jacobs said, “We will review the actions of the coaches and administration and will respond appropriately.”
She said “any necessary discipline’' of the students found to have used racial slurs will remain confidential because they are minors.
“We believe in holding our students accountable while providing for restorative justice,” Jacobs said. “Young people make mistakes and will learn from them if given the opportunity to do so.”
Bob Hohler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.