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    Saturday, August 13, 2022

    New London student fans: Buscetto shouted obscenities at us

    Editor's note: This corrects an earlier version. New London High School Principal William Tommy Thompson stated student fans felt there was a double standard in how the behavior was addressed. The original version implied that was Thompson's opinion.     

    A group of New London High School student basketball fans have been pursuing complaints that they were the targets of obscenities hurled courtside at them by Michael Buscetto, a former New London mayoral candidate who now lives in Waterford, where his son Michael is a star of the high school basketball team.

    The students, attending a Feb. 24 game at Waterford, said Buscetto told them to "shut the f— up" when they cheered when Buscetto's son messed up a play and that he continued to use the same obscenity while shouting at them.

    One student said Buscetto responded, "I can do what the f— I want," when they suggested he move away from their section of the bleachers if he did not want to hear the cheering.

    When a student suggested that, as an adult, Buscetto should not treat students that way, he responded, according to the student: "Who the f— are you talking to?"

    Young women were among those Buscetto was swearing at, the students said.

    Jean Jordan, president of the New London chapter of the NAACP, which has been facilitating investigations of the incident, said her organization and parents of kids involved said they are not happy so far with the outcome.

    "An apology would be a good start," Jordan said.

    A parent of one of the students told me she met with Waterford schools Superintendent Thomas Giard, who she said took the complaints seriously. In the end, though, he declined to impose any discipline, such as limiting attendance at future games, that parent suggested.

    Giard told me that an investigation of the complaints from the New London game is continuing and that some policies regarding security and site management at games have changed. He declined to tell me what those changes are, saying they are security related.

    The superintendent would not disclose the identity of the Waterford parent who students complained about. But he said he met with the individual and told him, essentially, not to do it again.

    The lack of discipline for Buscetto, one parent told me, "sends a message to our kids that they don't matter. We are tired of that. We are looking for accountability."

    William Tommy Thompson, principal of New London High School, also investigated and interviewed four of the students involved, reporting to the NAACP with a synopsis of what they told him.

    Thompson also met with Waterford school officials, who he said told him they are continuing to discuss ways to make their facilities more welcoming.

    Buscetto did not return several specific messages I left for him at Filomena's, the restaurant he owns in Waterford.

    Some of the students who say they were targeted by Buscetto told me the attack did not have a racial element. But they told me that there was some general racial tension at the event, where the New London fan section had many more people of color than were in the rest of the gym.

    They said police were clustered near New London fans instead of spread out around the facility. And staff were enforcing rules about staying away from the court much more closely for New London fans than around the Waterford fan section, they said.

    The students and their parents also have complained that, even while Buscetto was allowed to swear at them, a New London student who jumped on the court to do a backflip immediately was escorted out of the gym by police.

    The mother of the fan who did the flip told me her son ended up watching the game on his phone outside the gym. She said he has done the same thing at games in New London without being disciplined.

    The fact that an adult shouting obscenities at young people was allowed to stay at the game, while her son was made to leave, instead of being warned not to do it again, is essentially a double standard, she suggested.

    I took heart, in learning more about that game, which Waterford won 65-61, from the courage and sense of pride New London students and their parents took in standing up for themselves, in calling out unacceptable behavior.

    "(Student fans felt) there really was a double standard in how behavior was addressed," Thompson said. "The students did the right thing in reporting the behavior. What should come next is the adults taking responsibility."

    That sure is true.

    Thompson said he would be glad to be part of the continuing conversation.

    And I would have to agree with the president of the NAACP.

    An apology would be a good start to making the Feb. 24 game just a bad distant memory.

    This is the opinion of David Collins.


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