Officials at Keefe Regional Technical School and Marian High School in Framingham have canceled the boys’ hockey season for their joint team after administrators were informed of anti-Semitic comments and actions by players against a teammate, the schools said Wednesday.
School officials declined to give details about the behavior, but a letter to Marian High players and their parents said an investigation into the allegations found “a pattern of locker room activity in which the players admitted to participating in these types of comments and actions in what they described as ‘joking around.’ ”
The letter was dated Monday and signed by John J. Ermilio, president and principal of the Catholic school. He said he was notified of the claims Friday and interviewed Marian High hockey players and their parents the same day.
Shannon Snow, principal of Keefe Regional Technical School, also conducted an investigation Friday, according to Ermilio’s letter.
The investigation revealed unacceptable conduct, Ermilio said.
“Behaviors such as these, even if intended to be ‘locker room activity’ are in direct opposition to the mission statements of both Marian and Keefe,” he wrote. “Both schools aspire to an environment of respect, civility and safety for all, both in school and at extra-curricular activities.”
In a statement, Keefe Regional Technical School Superintendent Jonathan Evans said its investigation found a “pervasive climate of disrespect that involved multiple student athletes from both schools.”
Evans declined to be interviewed and Snow didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The investigation was first reported Wednesday by The MetroWest Daily News in Framingham.
Several players have been disciplined and both schools agreed to cancel the remainder of the hockey season, Ermilio wrote. The decision means the team will forfeit 19 games, said Terrence Donilon , a Marian spokesman.
He said the players concealed their behavior from the coach, Andrew Lewis, and his assistants. The coaching staff is welcome to return next year, Donilon said.
The squad last week lost its opening contest 6-0 against Cardinal Spellman High School. The team has 25 players, though none are seniors, Donilon said. Fifteen players attend Marian, which has 252 students, he said.
State figures show Keefe Regional Technical School has just over 700 students and serves residents of Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, and Natick.
Both schools said they plan to implement an educational component to address the players’ conduct. Marian has spoken with the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, Ermilio’s letter said.
“This is going to be a learning experience for these kids,” Donilon said. “There’s going to be some effort put forth to demonstrate how serious this behavior is. It’s unacceptable.”
Robert Trestan, who directs the New England branch of the Anti-Defamation League, applauded Marian High for reaching out and said the team is not the only one confronting incidents of bias.
According to Trestan, 2016 is on track to be a record year in Massachusetts for bias incidents, particularly in schools. The conduct, he said, has been fueled by a divisive election campaign and the spread of hate speech through social media channels that reach adults and children alike.
“They are seeing everything that adults see and are responding in similar ways,” he said.
In March, students from the all-boys Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury shouted, “You killed Jesus!” as its basketball team played Newton North High School. The taunt stunned the Newton North crowd, many of whom are Jewish.
Three incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti were reported at Newton North after the basketball game and another episode was reported in December 2015.
Last month, anti-Semitic symbols, profanities, and the words “Trump 2016” appeared on a prominent rock on the campus of The Bromfield School in Harvard.
Earlier this month, a swatiska and the word “Trump” were found written on a blackboard at the William H. Lincoln School in Brookline. In September, a federal investigation found a climate of racial discrimination and harassment at Boston Latin School , an elite exam school.
The state doesn’t track the number of bias incidents in schools, but the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education expects administrators to act decisively to counter such episodes, a spokeswoman said.
Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said many students belonging to minority groups have been feeling vulnerable since the election and educators must act swiftly to address bias incidents.
“If we don’t act decisively, we’re opening the door and giving permission for others to behave this way, which we don’t want to do,” he said.
Robert Leikind, director of the American Jewish Committee’s New England Office, said incidents of bias are on the rise.
“Anybody who cares about the health of our country needs to care about this,” he said. “It is encouraging to know that educational leaders take this problem seriously.”