BATH — The Hyde School is pulling its boys’ basketball team from competitive play with other Maine high schools after school officials said their students were subjected to racial taunts and questionable officiating in February’s Western Class D championship game in Augusta.

Malcolm Gauld, the president of the private boarding school that houses students from over 30 states, informed the Maine Principals’ Association of the decision a few weeks ago, then went public this weekend with a post on the Maine Basketball Report website. Hyde will compete instead in the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council.

Hyde’s girls’ basketball team will continue to compete in the MPA, the governing body for high school sports in Maine. Basketball is the only MPA sport in which Hyde participates.

The decision to pull the boys’ team, Gauld said, was based in part on what school officials felt was an unusually high disparity in foul shots taken in the game, won by Forest Hills, 64-50. Forest Hills took 45 foul shots in the game while Hyde took only six. The game was televised by MPBN.

Laura Gauld, the Head of School at Hyde, said the school has long been concerned about officiating bias against Hyde during the tournament.

“If we stayed in the MPA tournament, we wouldn’t get a fair shake from the officials,” she said. “We always tell our players to never blame the referees. But in the Western Maine final we got hit with both – the officiating and the kids heard some very inappropriate comments from some adult fans. It was a minority. Kids shouldn’t have to be subject to that.

“The other thing that bothered us was the lack of outrage from other adults at these comments. Under these circumstances, it was hard to keep going.”

Malcolm and Laura Gauld, who are married, both attended the game, but neither heard racial slurs. “But I checked with a couple of people and they definitely heard the ‘N’ word thrown out,” Malcolm Gauld said. “I didn’t hear that, but others said they did.”

Coach Corey Begley said his roster had six non-white players, three of whom played regularly. Members of the team were not available for comment Monday. A school official said they were playing on – or traveling in support of – the Hyde boys’ lacrosse team in its game at Pingree School in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Malcolm Gauld said he confronted two adult fans who were denigrating his players during the game.

“They sort of stereotyped the kids at Hyde – rich kids with a troubled past,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “They were saying, ‘Why don’t you go back to (juvenile detention)? Why don’t you go back to reform school?’ ”

Malcolm Gauld did not approach any MPA officials at the Augusta Civic Center with his concerns during or after the game.

“Maybe we should have,” he said. “We were caught up in the excitement of the game. We got home and asked, ‘What was that about?’ You don’t always react in real time. … It just seemed like there was poison in the air.”

Dick Durost, the executive director of the MPA, said officials would have addressed the issue had they been notified. He spoke to all the MPA officials at the arena that day.

“None of our people heard it and if we had, I guarantee it would have been addressed,” Durost said. “No one from the school or administration approached our on-site staff. If we hear it directly we can deal with it at the snap of a finger. We would have dealt with it.

“I don’t blame them for being upset and concerned that comments were made. I do wish they had given us the chance to deal with it.”

School officials said they asked the MPA to look into their concerns about the officiating, but had not received an answer. That’s when they met with faculty, coaches and students and decided to play in the private school league instead.

“I think we kind of walked away from that last game pretty demoralized,” Malcolm Gauld said. “Has there ever been a disparity of six to 45 in foul shots before? And then some of the comments that were made in the stands? When you add those things together we felt maybe we are just in the wrong place. We are no strangers to losing in any sport, but we just felt, and I think I speak for the whole community, it just felt like more than a loss. And we felt that it shouldn’t be this way.”

Peter Webb, the commissioner of the state basketball commission, said he did contact the school after their initial inquiry about how game officials were selected – but that he had not watched a video of the game, nor did he believe he had been asked to do so. He only saw the last 10 minutes of the game in person and said, “I don’t recall anything real unusual happening at the end that I would be alarmed about.”

Laura Gauld said past history played a role in the decision to leave the MPA.

“We value our relationships with the other schools, but we had to weigh what was right for us,” she said. “Is it the right move for our students? We had to look at the whole picture. It was a decision of a bigger nature. It’s not about wins and losses.

“If we stayed in the MPA tournament, we wouldn’t get a fair shake from the officials. If it was one incident, we might still be in the tournament.”

Asked why the girls’ team would remain in the MPA, Malcom Gauld said, “It hasn’t been an issue with them.”

Anthony Amero, the boys’ basketball coach and athletic director at Forest Hills, said he did not hear any racial slurs during the game. Neither did his principal, who was in the stands.

“We don’t know who was involved or what was said,” he said. “Nothing was reported to our administration. If it had been, we would have handled it.”

He added that any racial taunts would be unfortunate and unwelcome.

“That bothered me to hear that,” he said. “Anyone in education would be bothered hearing that in that regards.”

In his post on Maine Basketball Report, Malcolm Gauld said, “Hyde players and fans heard a lot of (racial taunts) when we first entered MPA competition in the ’80s, but it all seemed to fade off in the 90s.”

Historically, the team has had a diverse roster with minority students. But Malcolm Gauld said Maine schools as a whole have become more diverse and that racial incidents have died down considerably over the years. That’s what surprised him most about the game in February.

“Maybe this is a one-time aberration,” he said. “It was just in that one game.”

Dan Lebowitz, the executive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University, said: “If it happened once, it happened one time too many.

“If you’re the recipient, the attack on your character and your identity is something that looms large and has long-lasting effects.

Lebowitz said it is past the time that the U.S. needs a deep conversation on race.

“I think what you’re seeing is that we aren’t in a post-racial world at this point,” he said. “Despite the fact that a lot of people assume, because we have an African-American president, that we are in a post-racial world, we’re not.

“Incidents like this point to the need for that conversation (on race) and the need for it in every sector or society. … The fact that there were racial slurs, if substantiated, shows that we aren’t past that behavior and the reason why we aren’t is that we haven’t had a deep-dive conversation on race.”

Durost said the Hyde boys’ team would be welcomed back if it decides decide to return.

Malcolm Gauld wouldn’t rule out anything.

“I’d never say no to anything,” he said, noting that Hyde pulled out of the MPA in 1981 only to return shortly after. “People are asking if we’re trying to make a statement. I’d say no. We’re trying to do what’s best for our students, like what any educator would try to do. And right now, that’s going to the NEPSAC.”


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