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Price of racism?

Rutland Middle School forfeits soccer game after student’s racist slur

By Ethan Weinstein

When Woodstock Middle School’s boys soccer team took on Rutland, Sept. 29, what should have been another day on the pitch devolved into verbal abuse, culminating in a Rutland player using an anti-Black epithet against a Woodstock player.

The next day, a Woodstock parent informed Woodstock Union Principal Garon Smail, Athletic Director Jack Boymer, and WCSU Superintendent Sherry Sousa via email about the incident, requesting action.

“Following last night’s game against Rutland, [I learned that] several of the Rutland players repeatedly used offensive language in comments directed towards members of the Woodstock team and, in one specific instance, a Rutland player used the N-word, also directed at a Woodstock player,” the parent, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote in the message.

The two teams were scheduled for a rematch in Woodstock on Monday, Oct. 4, but that afternoon, Boymer informed parents that Rutland had decided to cancel the game for “‘disciplinary reasons’ within their team.’”

When asked about the game, Woodstock Principal Smail said he was “not in the position to discuss any specific incidents.” But he did specify that Woodstock’s athletic director addresses similar concerns to the relevant referees, the competing school, and the Vermont Principals’ Association.

“Our school is actively engaged in dialogue and action to address racism and racist language,” Smail added.

Pati Beaumont, Rutland Middle School principal, said that the school conducted an “internal investigation” to decide how to respond to the team’s actions. “As a result of our findings, we decided to forfeit today’s soccer game,” she said on Monday, Oct. 4.

“We truly apologize for any harm that was caused by our players. After today’s loss of game, we hope [the players] will all better understand the hurt that was caused, and reflect on how they should act as a team in the future,” she said.

This incident of racial abuse on the soccer field comes after a similar situation in a Sept. 18 boys’ soccer game between Winooski High School and Enosburg Falls High School.

According to Winooski Superintendent Sean McMannon, players of color on Winooski’s team “were called the N-word, monkey, and terrorist,” by Enosburg Falls players and fans, he said in a statement.

In response to the Winooski game, the Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) released a statement on Sept. 28 reiterating the organization’s condemnation of “dehumanizing identity attacks,” including racism. The organization also highlighted several actions it has taken to encourage equity, such as deciding in August to mandate anti-bias training for coaches and officials.

At a VPA officials meeting on Sept. 24, “there was a decision made to begin immediately developing a reporting system for any racially related incidents at any high school sporting event in Vermont.”

Bob Johnson, VPA’s association executive director, specified that “Any incident in grades 5 through 12 would be put into the reporting system,” not just incidents involving high schoolers. He added that the instance of racism during the Sept. 29 Woodstock v. Rutland game had also been brought to the VPA’s attention.

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