Across the state, there’s been a disturbing trend of racial, gender-based and sexual harassment in sports this fall. The Hartford girls’ soccer team walked off the field with six minutes left in a game against Fair Haven after players were taunted and sexually harassed by spectators. Enosburg Falls spectators and athletes allegedly targeted Winooski soccer players with racial slurs. The Burlington girls’ volleyball team also reported enduring racially-based harassment at a recent game. A letter from the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) superintendent Brigid Nease referenced a recent incident at Harwood, though the superintendent and athletic director declined to provide details on that incident.


“Unfortunately, I have had to deal with a few incidents over my time at Harwood, and they’re always incredibly tough situations,” said Harwood athletic director Chris Langevin. “You never wish anyone to go through incidents like the ones we’ve seen recently, but if it does you need to be there to look into the incident and support students to feel safe when they come to your facility or are traveling to another school. We want people to come to enjoy playing at Harwood and look forward to coming to Harwood to play in front of our fans.”

The Vermont Principals’ Association released a statement last week to be read before school sporting events. “The Vermont Principals’ Association, the Vermont Superintendents Association and the Vermont School Athletic Directors Association require participants and spectators to behave in a respectful manner ... Sportsmanship and a safe playing environment are the top priorities for all Vermont school-sponsored activities … Under no circumstances should any student athletes, officials or coaches be subjected to behavior and/or language aimed to demean, disrespect or harm,” it read.

The statement said that, if inappropriate behavior is observed, officials will immediately stop the game and talk to coaches about what actions need to be taken. Such actions may include ejection from the game, ending the event early and suspension from future events.

“I hope that people listen closely to the VPA’s statement we are reading prior to games,” Langevin said. “This statement is very clear about this type of behavior not being acceptable, and reads what the consequences can be if people don’t comply. We need to do what we can to keep sports safe for all student-athletes, so they may play their games without fear of harassment.” 


In a written statement to the HUUSD community, co-principals Meg McDonough and Laurie Greenberg wrote, “There are some very public stories regarding student-athletes being subjected to racist, sexist and transphobic comments from spectators and opponents. We want to be clear to you -- our student athletes and our Harwood community -- that we do not condone this behavior.”

McDonough cited steps the Harwood administration has taken to address harmful comments and behavior, including ongoing community dialogues on teams and anti-racist community dialogues in all advisory groups. If inappropriate behavior is observed, a misconduct investigation will commence, all named as involved will be questioned, discipline will be issued, and a working file record will be kept by the school. The co-principals asked anyone who observes unsportsmanlike behavior to report it to the coaches and officials right away.

“People coming to games (whether as a participant or spectator) are not there to put down other school’s student-athletes, to put down the officials, to put down our own student-athletes -- they should be there to support and positively cheer our students on,” Langevin said. “We need to set an example and be positive role models.”