DANVERS, Mass. (State House News Service) — Danvers police will reassign an officer away from the school resource program and the town's public school district will overhaul its anti-discrimination protocols under a new agreement with Attorney General Maura Healey's office that resolves her investigation into the high school's varsity hockey team.
Healey's office announced Monday afternoon that the Danvers Public School District agreed to make significant changes to student programmings, harassment and bias policies, and notification practices after players on the hockey team allegedly perpetuated a "toxic team culture" featuring hazing rituals and racist, homophobic and sexually abusive behavior.
Investigators flagged several concerns with the district's approach, including a lack of awareness about misconduct on the hockey team, insufficient consideration about how the behavior could have created a hostile environment for some players, and a decision to limit its disciplinary response to what Healey's office called "virulently racist, homophobic, antisemitic, and misogynistic comments and images posted to the teams' group texts."
"Racism, homophobia, and bigotry of any kind have no place in our locker rooms, rinks, or playing fields -- we need to create a safe and supportive environment for our students to grow and learn," Healey said in a statement Monday. "With today's resolution, the Danvers Public School District has committed to making needed changes to improve the culture in its schools and athletics program, protect students' rights, and ensure that incidents of hate and bias are never overlooked again."
The AG said her investigation found that problems within the team persisted because of failures in supervision by its coach, Danvers Police Sgt. Steve Baldassare, who last year resigned from the coaching role, according to The Salem News.
In a letter to school officials summarizing the resolution, Healey said DPD agreed to reassign Baldassare "to a role where he will no longer supervise or have any role in the Danvers School Resource Officer Program."
Under the resolution with the AG, the district agreed to overhaul its policies and procedures to more effectively prohibit harassment, bullying and bias, to provide teachers, coaches staff with additional training on the subject, to create programming for students to respond to hate and bias, and to notify prosecutors of any incident involving "discriminatory bullying, harassment, or other biased misconduct involving a DHS student."
Written by Chris Lisinski/SHNS