As the MIAA continues to investigate reports of alleged racism on the part of Amherst Regional High School fans during a soccer game against Holyoke High School, Amherst school officials are apologizing and establishing new rules for fans at ARHS games.
Parents and students at Holyoke High School are furious after a soccer game in late September, telling Western Mass News that the student athletes were subject to relentless bullying from the opposing team.
Amherst's investigation found considerable evidence that ARHS fans acted in appropriately, but did not find evidence of the use of racial slurs. Nonetheless, new rules will restrict what ARHS fans can and cannot say during sporting events.
The new rules, which apply to both students and parents, will not allow two common chants: "warm up the bus" and "if you're winning, clap your hands."
Mainly, the rules are aimed at prohibiting any negatively-charged chants that would demean opposing players or officials. Parents, for example, are allowed to express shock at an official's call, but not able to voice judgments of the official's performance.
Meanwhile, the MIAA has not released any findings from its ongoing investigation into whether racial slurs were used in the game against Holyoke. Shortly after the game, parents and students maintained that hateful language was used.
"It's horrible seeing how people are being made fun of because of their race, in my opinion, is not really acceptable in the school like that," said Juan Rodriguez.
Holyoke High parents and students are taking a stance after hearing about Friday night's game against Amherst. They told us that students from Amherst were taunting the Holyoke soccer team with songs and cheers.
However, what really crossed the line - they said - was when they started spewing derogatory terms to the goalie, who is of mixed ethnicity.
"I just thought it was really unfair. You shouldn't be calling people out because their skin color, ethnicity. It does not impact anyone doing sports or extracurricular activities. I think it was very juvenile and unfair to school," said Yarijel Melendez.
Melendez is a senior at Holyoke High and part of the school newspaper. She said that this incident has opened the conversation of racism in society.
"I feel like, at this point in our society, I feel like people are not taking it as seriously because of everything that's happening and they think racism has ended because it's not as relevant as it was, but it's still as relevant, but us - as students - we should stand up for each other and our school as we have to," Melendez added.
Holyoke Public Schools said in a statement, "Obviously, the reports and claims that we have received are concerning and distressing. We have spoken to Amherst officials who have been incredibly responsible and have shared that they are actively investigating these reports.”
Amherst Regional High School principal Mark Jackson added in a statement:
"Over the weekend, the superintendent of the Holyoke Public Schools and the principal of Holyoke High School reached out to Acting Superintendent Mike Morris and myself.
Their concern was the behavior of the ARHS fans during our girls soccer game against Holyoke High School on Friday, September 23rd.
They allege that ARHS fans harassed the Holyoke players throughout the game. If substantiated, behavior of this sort would be covered by our code of conduct.
This morning, I spoke to the Holyoke High School principal. I assured him that we will take these allegations seriously and investigate each thoroughly."
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