LUNENBURG — Worcester school officials have confirmed a racial incident occurred recently when the Lunenburg High School football team played a Worcester team and the game ended abruptly.
The Lunenburg team is now the focus in the alleged racial graffiti discovered Friday morning spray-painted on the house of a young Lunenburg player who alleges wrongdoing by teammates.
Meanwhile, the father of the Lunenburg football player said he is irate with Lunenburg officials for allegedly covering up racist comments made by several Lunenburg football players at games against Worcester a few weeks ago.
Worcester athletic officials confirmed full incident reports were filed after a Nov. 1 varsity game in Worcester between South High Community School and Lunenburg High School, and again on Nov. 4 after a junior varsity game between the same schools — when several Lunenburg players allegedly used racial language toward Worcester players.
Near the end of both games, fights broke out because of the derogatory comments, according to school officials.
Anthony J. Phillips, the father of Lunenburg eighth-grader Isaac A. Phillips, 13, who plays freshman and junior varsity football for Lunenburg High School and was the target of racist graffiti last week, said today he believes the same football players were involved in defacing his Lunenburg home and hazing his son.
Moreover, he alleges Lunenburg school officials covered up the incidents.
On the foundation of the Phillips’ family ranch-style home on Chase Road, the phrase “Knights don’t need n------!” was spray-painted in blue letters after dark one evening last week.
Isaac’s father is black and his mother is white.
Lunenburg teams are nicknamed the Blue Knights.
Friday night’s football game against Oakmont Regional High School was canceled because of the graffiti incident.
Mr. Phillips said that during a meeting with Lunenburg school officials Friday about the incident he was told they knew nothing about the incidents at the games with Worcester South High and acted surprised about the racist graffiti.
However, after a meeting this morning with the superintendent, principal and vice principal, Mr. Phillips said he was told they were aware of the incidents and were dealing with it.
“At the meeting with the school, they said they knew about the accusations in Worcester at the games two weeks ago and were apologetic,” he said. “But on Friday they said it was the first time they had ever heard about this. They told us today they knew about it and said they have had back and forth conversations with the athletic director in Worcester about the word that was used.
“The (Lunenburg) superintendent has been to my house and said there was a possibility this (graffiti) happened outside the football team, yet the principal was contacted by someone from Worcester about two players using that word and there were emails and conversations between the two schools about racist comments. We almost feel like we need a lawyer.”
Robert F. Pezzella, school safety liaison for Worcester Public Schools, confirmed this afternoon that on Nov. 4 at the junior varsity game between South High and Lunenburg in Worcester as South High was leading, the same racial slur spray-painted on the Phillips’ home and another racial comment were allegedly uttered by Lunenburg players against Worcester players about four minutes before the end of the fourth quarter.
According to a Worcester referee’s incident report, Mr. Pezzella said, a fight ensued and the game was ended early by referees on both sides who directed Lunenburg players to their bus.
The fight was ended quickly, Mr. Pezzella said, and no one was injured.
“They abruptly called the game and officials summoned Lunenburg players to the bus,” he said.
A written report was submitted to Athletic Director David Shea, he said, who notified Lunenburg’s athletic director the next day. Lunenburg’s and South High’s principals were also in communication about the event, he said.
“We’ve received no official response from Lunenburg to Worcester as of this morning,” Mr. Pezzella said. “We were hopeful they were investigating it throughout the course of the last few weeks. As of this morning, we have no indication of what their investigation revealed.
“We abided by the procedures we’ve always implemented. It is a clear-cut process the athletic director follows and we reported all of the incidents that took place. We’re hopeful Lunenburg will investigate and tell us their findings.”
He said officials have not discussed whether they will play future games against Lunenburg.
The superintendent is paying close attention to the issue, he added, and the district has a zero-tolerance school policy toward any type of racism or bullying.
Lunenburg High School Athletic Director Peter McCauliff would not comment on the issue Friday and said the matter is under investigation.
Lunenburg School Superintendent Loxi Jo Calmes did not immediately return calls for comment today.
Mr. Phillips said his wife was so upset that she walked out of the meeting today. He said they wanted to discuss Isaac’s possible transfer to another district.
“This is a few bad kids and the coaches are letting them do anything they want to do,” Mr. Phillips added. He said they allegedly allowed players to bully his son and did nothing when his bike tire was slashed.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick today urged residents to rally around the Phillips family and condemned the incident.
“First of all it’s disgusting. I don’t believe it is who the people of Lunenburg are. I don’t think it is who the people of the Commonwealth are,” Mr. Patrick said at a Statehouse press conference this afternoon.
“I have spoken with the superintendent. I have reached out to the family. I haven’t connected with the family, but I hope all of the people of the immediate community and around the Commonwealth will rally around this family and send them their support and remind them what I know to be true, that we are better than this,” Mr. Patrick said.
Jim Wilson of the Telegram & Gazette staff contributed to this report