Missisquoi Valley Union High School officials said they found no substantial evidence that their fans and students engaged in the “harassment, sexualization and debasement” of female football players Lamoille Union High School during a game in October.
Franklin County School conducted an investigation by interviewing “numerous students,” Julie Regimbal, the Missisquoi Valley School District superintendent, said in a statement, but found “no substantiation for comments or criticism.” specific actions”.
Still, in a letter outlining the findings that was sent to Lamoille Union High last month, Missisquoi athletic director John Lumsden acknowledged “there was inappropriate student behavior during the game.” He apologized for them on behalf of the school.
Senior Lamoille Union officials said spectators at the Oct. 27 playoff game in Missisquoi made derogatory comments about the weight and chest size of Lamoille Union players, and some players described hearing comments about their families and their parents.
The comments led to some players leaving the pitch in tears, Lamoille officials said, and others asking for a change of position so they could play on the side of the pitch away from spectators.
In a statement to VTDigger on Tuesday, Lamoille athletic director Tim Messier said the incident “and similar ones occurring in the state and nationally are far too common and deserve considerable effort by the on behalf of everyone involved to examine, address and curb all of these behaviors.”
He did not respond to VTDigger’s questions about whether Lamoille Union thinks the Missisquoi Valley survey adequately addressed his school’s concerns.
Lamoille’s varsity and junior women’s basketball teams played in Missisquoi on Dec. 17, he noted, and there were no reports of sportsmanship issues involving spectators.
In his Nov. 17 letter, Lumsden, Missisquoi’s athletic director, said his school looks forward to hosting the basketball teams “to demonstrate and showcase what the real Missisquoi Valley Union student body is like.”
Messier said many people in the Lamoille Union community continue to discuss spectator behavior at sports games. The next step for the school is to form a committee including student-athletes, coaches and residents to address the issue, he said.
In Missisquoi, Regimbal said officials took several actions in response to the reported harassment. The Franklin County school held training for its student-athletes on preventing harassment and bullying, and announced expectations for behavior at sporting events, she said.
An announcement on spectator expectations will also be read before each game, Regimbal said. The Vermont Principals’ Association, which governs school sports in the state, released a statement on player and spectator behavior this fall that it asked to read before every school-sponsored event.
Missisquoi officials said fans may be barred from attending events if harassment is reported in the future, and they plan to follow up with winter sports teams throughout the season.
At least 10 reports have been filed through the Principals’ Association Incident Reporting Log regarding the Oct. 27 game. Lamoille Union High said one of his players sent his teammates a link to the newspaper and encouraged them to file reports about the game.
The Principals’ Association created the reporting log following reports of racist abuse at a boys’ soccer game in September between Winooski High School and Enosburg Falls High School. Athletic directors told VTDigger that hate speech and other verbal abuse is common in Vermont school sports, and the Washington Post recently reported that the the problem is widespread across the country.
An internal investigation by Enosburg Falls High was also unable to substantiate allegations of abuse at the September game, school officials said.
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