EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 10, 2014

Students suspended for racial tweets

By Mike LaBella

---- — HAVERHILL — Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School suspended two students for racist comments on Twitter following a playoff game between the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens.

School officials said the comments were posted in the wake of the May 1 game, in which the Bruins lost 4-3 at home in an emotional double overtime with a goal by Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is black, and was the subject of the students’ tweets as well as possibly tweets from other fans.

Whittier Superintendent William DeRosa said the two students were suspended for a week and must attend a re-admission meeting on Monday before they are allowed back into school.

“As a school district, we don’t tolerate any kind of behavior like that,” DeRosa said. “We have zero tolerance for this kind of thing, which is why we took swift action.”

On Friday, May 2, Bruins President Cam Neely issued this statement regarding several more racial tweets that were made in the wake of the May 1 game in Boston: “The racist, classless views expressed by an ignorant group of individuals following Thursday’s game via digital media are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization.”

Boston media outlets reported that Bruins fans at the TD Garden reacted poorly to Subban’s game-winning goal, and in one instance someone apparently threw what appeared to be a water bottle at Subban.

DeRosa said that at Monday’s scheduled readmission meeting, school administrators will review the offense with the two students and will be looking for reassurances that they will not repeat the actions that got them into trouble, DeRosa said.

“And we’re looking hopefully for a level of remorse,” he said.

DeRosa said the incident was brought to his attention last Friday, which triggered an investigation lead by assistant principals Chris Laganas and Andrew Pigeon and Principal Maureen Lynch.

“They posted information from home, and to the best of my knowledge they aren’t friends and it appears they did this independently following last Thursday night’s Bruins game,” DeRosa said. “These two students don’t even know each other.”

“The only thing I can say is that we interpreted their comments (tweets) as racist comments, and when they were interviewed they said it had to do with Subban,” DeRosa said. “They were both tweeting.”

DeRosa said that one of the students also posted a photograph, but that contrary to rumors, it was not a photograph of Subban.

“It was not a hockey player in a noose, it was a picture of a noose,” DeRosa said.

DeRosa said that as a result of the investigation, the two students were suspended for five days. He said their parents were notified of the situation last Friday and picked up their children from school. The five day suspension was from Monday to Friday of this week.

DeRosa said that as a matter of legality, he would not be releasing the students’ names or where they are from, and would not discuss what shop programs they are in, their academic standing or whether they are on any of Whittier’s sports teams. He said they will be allowed to make up any school work that was missed during their suspension.