“Racial slur” incident at middle school basketball game prompts parent backlash

  • ARRSD Superintendent Darcy Fernandes —File photo

Published: 12/20/2018 1:02:32 PM
Modified: 12/20/2018 1:02:43 PM

By SARAH ROBERTSON

Staff Writer

ATHOL — Angry parents attended the Athol-Royalston Regional School Committee meeting Wednesday night demanding an apology from Superintendent Darcy Fernandes for speaking sternly to their daughters after an alleged racial slur was used during a basketball game last week.

On Friday, Dec. 14 during a basketball game against SABIS International School, alleged racist comments by members of the Athol girls’ middle school basketball game were directed towards members of the opposing team. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, according to Fernandes.

A mother of two Athol middle school girls’ basketball team members, Tammy Duquette spoke for herself and on behalf of at least seven other parents at the meeting. She read aloud a correspondence sent to to Fernandes last week.

“Mrs. Fernandes, it has come to my attention that civil rights investigators interviewed my daughter without my permission or notice,” Duquette said. “The fact we were not notified about this is upsetting to say the least.”

Duquette said problems arose when members of the opposing team began taunting the ARMS girls’ basketball team, shouting from the sidelines while Athol had the ball, and refusing to shake hands after the game. Duquette called this “constant disrespect from players and the coach.”

Fernandes learned of the issue the following Monday afternoon and informed the students involved of an investigation into the matter. A letter was sent home to parents explaining the situation.

“I received the complaint, informed students of the complaint, let them know the incident was under investigation and that based on allegations our civil rights officers would be interviewing them and would render a report to the school principal based on their findings,” Fernandes said in an email.

Claiming that the superintendent responded to the students in an accusatory fashion, parents in attendance demanded an immediate apology. Duquette said the group of girls were perhaps “the nicest group of girls I have ever encountered in my entire life.”

“Much to my dismay, two of my daughters informed me that you chastised them without having all the evidence,” Duquette said. “If you wish to have my daughter interviewed, I must be present.”

Some parents applauded after Duquette’s remarks while Fernandes said nothing in response. When it seemed that no apology would be issued that night, some parents left in frustration.

Saying that she and her daughters have the right to legal representation, Duquette said she needed to have granted permission before investigators were allowed to talk to her daughters. Fernandes said the situation is “still under investigation and the district is following due process.”

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@atholdailynews.com.


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