Missisquoi Valley Union High School officials said they found no substantial evidence that their fans and students engaged in “harassment, sexualization and debasement” of Lamoille Union High School girls soccer players during a match in October.
The Franklin County school conducted an investigation interviewing “many students,” Julie Regimbal, the Missisquoi Valley School District superintendent, said in a statement, but found “no substantiation of any specific comments or actions.”
Still, in a letter describing the findings that was addressed to Lamoille Union High last month, Missisquoi Athletic Director John Lumsden acknowledged “that there were inappropriate student behaviors during the game.” He apologized for them on the school’s behalf.
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Lamoille Union High officials have said that spectators at the Oct. 27 playoff game at Missisquoi made disparaging comments about Lamoille Union players’ weight and chest size, and some players described hearing comments about their families and parents.
The comments led some players to come off the field in tears, Lamoille officials said, and others to ask for a position change so they could play on the side of the field away from the spectators.
In a statement to VTDigger on Tuesday, Lamoille Athletic Director Tim Messier said the incident “and those similar that are occurring state and nationwide are far too common and are worthy of extensive efforts from all involved to review, address and curb any and all such behaviors.”
He did not respond to VTDigger’s questions about whether Lamoille Union thinks the Missisquoi Valley investigation properly addressed his school’s concerns.
Lamoille’s varsity and junior varsity girls basketball teams played at Missisquoi on Dec. 17, he noted, and there were no reports of any sportsmanship issues involving spectators.
In his Nov. 17 letter, Lumsden, the Missisquoi athletic director, said his school looked forward to hosting the basketball teams “to demonstrate and show what the real Missisquoi Valley Union student body looks like.”
Messier said many people in the Lamoille Union community continue to discuss spectator behavior at sports games. The school’s next step is to form a committee including student-athletes, coaches and residents to address the issue, he said.
At Missisquoi, Regimbal said officials have taken several steps in response to the reported harassment. The Franklin County school held training for its student-athletes on harassment and bullying prevention, and announced expectations for behavior during sporting events, she said.
An announcement about expectations for spectators also will be read before each game, Regimbal said. The Vermont Principals’ Association, which governs school sports in the state, released a statement this fall about player and spectator behavior that they’ve asked to be read before every school-sponsored event.
Missisquoi officials have said fans could be limited from attending events if harassment is reported in the future, and they plan to follow up with winter sports teams throughout the season.
At least 10 reports were filed through the principals’ association’s incident reporting log about the Oct. 27 match. Lamoille Union High said one of its players sent her teammates a link to the log and encouraged them to file reports about the game.
The principals’ association created the reporting log in the wake of reported racist abuse at a boys soccer game in September between Winooski High School and Enosburg Falls High School. Athletic directors have told VTDigger hate speech and other verbal abuse is common in Vermont school sports, and the Washington Post recently reported that the problem is widespread across the country.
An internal investigation by Enosburg Falls High also was unable to substantiate any reports of abuse at the September game, school officials said.
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