Immediately after learning about hazing allegations, the Haverhill Public Schools’ leadership team launched an investigation, consequences were imposed for several students, and supportive measures were set in place for others. We notified the Haverhill Police Department and the Department of Children & Families. As it became clear that there were multiple events of hazing & harassment, coaches were placed on administrative leave, and an external investigator was brought in to conduct the school-based investigation.
All forms of hazing and harassment are intolerable; hazing of this magnitude is unconscionable. The video evidence in this situation is disturbing. At its root, hazing is meant to cause harm, discomfort, embarrassment, humiliation, and ridicule. It leaves our athletes questioning what is right and wrong and confused about whether to speak up due to conflicting allegiances. Hazing instills fear. For those courageous students, families, and staff who have spoken up, thank you.
While we cannot comment on the ongoing investigation or the pending criminal charges, let us be clear, a coach is, first and foremost, a teacher. The role of a coach is to set an example for the players, inspiring them to be better on and off the field. A coach’s primary responsibility is to ensure each student-athlete’s health and well-being. Realistically, most high school athletes will not play competitively after graduating; however, the lessons they learn on the field, court, and around the track will remain with them for a lifetime.
As one initial layer of response, the school system has enrolled the support of the Center for the Study of Sport and Society at Northeastern University. Our shared goal is to help our student-athletes, leaders, and coaches to shift the paradigm that sports are about the scoreboard to a more inclusive attitude, which promotes sports as a way to bridge cultural gaps, resolve conflicts, and educate students beyond the four walls of the school building.
As we move forward to rebuild our football program and instill best practices for all our teams, the school system will continue to be intentional about the growth of our athletes on and off the field. We refuse to be defined by these events, and they do not accurately characterize the hundreds of other student-athletes and dozens of dedicated coaches within our school district. Sports are more than just a competitive physical outlet for students. Sports help prepare students for life. Through sports, students build self-discipline and social-emotional strength and develop relationships that can last a lifetime.
HPS is fully cooperating with this ongoing investigation. The school system is unable to elaborate on the comments above; for any specific questions about these criminal charges, we direct you to the Essex County District Attorney’s Office.
Margaret Marotta, EdD
Superintendent Haverhill Public Schools