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    Friday, August 12, 2022

    Some Colchester parents banned from Ledyard schools after racist incident

    Some adult spectators from Colchester have been banned from all Ledyard Public School facilities, stemming from an incident after Saturday night’s girls’ high school basketball game between Ledyard and Bacon Academy, Colchester's public high school.

    Investigations by both school systems concluded that some Bacon Academy parents aimed racist slurs at Ledyard players before the teams could exit the gym floor after Bacon’s contentious 56-55 victory.

    “After repeated warnings, Ledyard school administration escorted one adult spectator from the facility,” Ledyard Superintendent of Schools Jay Hartling said Tuesday in a statement. “Through our investigation, we have also learned that at the conclusion of the game additional spectators acted in a belligerent manner and others made statements of a racist nature, including the use of the ‘n-word.’"

    “Ledyard Public Schools will not tolerate behaviors that denigrate our students, staff or families. Belligerent behavior and racist statements have no place in our community," he said. "Based on our investigation, those identified are not welcome and will be officially banned from Ledyard Public Schools facilities.”

    Colchester Superintendent Jeffrey Burt apologized for the behavior of the adults in question.

    “Following our investigation into allegations of offensive comments and negative behavior by Bacon Academy parents, we believe this behavior did take place and included racial taunts by some adults aimed at opposing youth players,” Burt wrote in a statement. “This is unacceptable, and stands directly against our school system’s commitment to common decency and sportsmanship."

    “On behalf of Bacon Academy and our community, I offer our full and sincere apology to the Ledyard High School basketball players who were the targets of this abuse, as well as their families. This behavior does not meet the standards we promote in the Colchester schools, and we must do better," he wrote. "This is why we are examining this incident and taking the opportunity to review and improve the climate and culture of our entire school community.”

    Police were summoned to the school Saturday night, but no arrests have been made. 

    “We have an active investigation into Saturday’s events. At this point we're gathering facts," Ledyard police Chief John Rich said Tuesday. He said police are asking anyone with information to contact Sgt. Ryan Foster by calling (860) 464-6400 or emailing sgt.foster@ledyardct.org.

    “I never witnessed such a scene quite like it,” Phillistine Walker, the parent of a Ledyard player, wrote in an email to The Day and to Ledyard school officials. “While leaving after the closing of the game, Bacon parents called our Ledyard girls ‘a bunch of (n-words).’ It’s just a game of basketball. That makes no excuses for the blatant racism and threats that were just about to occur.”

    Walker wrote that Bacon Academy players called Ledyard’s warmup shirts, emblazoned with the word “equality,” as “stupid” and “weird” before the game. She said that when Ledyard players stood at the free throw line, Bacon fans “made gorilla noises, specifically towards our Black student athletes.”

    Burt’s investigation, however, found no wrongdoing among Bacon’s players.

    “We have become aware that Bacon Academy athletes who played in the game have been targets of social media harassment,” Burt said. “As a result of our collaborative investigation with Ledyard Public Schools, we can confirm there is no evidence that the student-athletes took part in the negative behavior. We ask for the online harassment of these students to end immediately.”

    This is not the first time Colchester school officials have addressed racial issues tied to the girls’ basketball program. Last April, Bacon coach John Shea was alleged to have made racially charged comments to basketball players at New London during a game on March 9, 2021.

    Burt and Bacon Academy Principal Matthew Peel sought advice from the National Conference for Community Justice, or NCCJ, a Windsor-based organization with which the Colchester district previously had partnered for diversity, equity and inclusion training.

    “We take every issue seriously and we always want to ensure the safety of our students,” Burt said at the time.

    Burt said at the time that the school district started a diversity, equity and inclusion committee last summer and began working with the NCCJ at the start of this school year.

    m.dimauro@theday.com

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