Mt. Blue High School officials are investigating the alleged use of a racial slur by a boys varsity basketball player during a game Saturday night in Farmington against Cony High School, of Augusta, the second reported racial incident in as many years involving a Cony Rams athletic team.

Tina Meserve, superintendent of Farmington-based Regional School Unit 9, confirmed that a complaint filed during the game centered around the use of the ‘N’ word reportedly directed toward a Cony player.

“A student on the Cony team during the game filed a complaint saying a Mt. Blue student had used the ‘N’ word during the game,” she said. “That’s the information that we have, and our process of course is to look into the allegation and to find out what happened, and then respond appropriately.”

This is the second incident in recent years in which Cony athletes were subject to racial slurs. In the fall of 2017, Mt. Ararat school officials investigated an incident during a boys soccer game in which racial slurs reportedly were directed at one or more Cony players.

Calls to Mt. Blue coach Travis Magnusson and Cony Superintendent James Anastasio were not returned. Cony athletic director Paul Vachon had no comment other than to confirm that the school had addressed it with the team’s coaches. Cony head coach T.J. Maines declined to comment as well.

Meserve declined to name the player involved. She said the Mt. Blue player was removed temporarily from the game, a 76-49 Cony win, in order to speak with Magnusson, but “no determination was made about whether (the word) was said or not at the time.”

“I believe the coach spoke with the Cony team and said ‘If this happened, we apologize,'” Meserve added, “but they weren’t saying that they knew it did at that time because no investigation had taken place for them to actually know one way or the other.”

Rachel Healy, director of communications at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, said in an email she hopes the schools are addressing the incident.

“We aren’t familiar with this particular incident and can’t address it directly,” she wrote. “What we can say for sure is that students of color experience harassment and discrimination in schools across the state and at all grade levels. It comes from other students, from teachers, from bus drivers. Some students experience this treatment as often as every day. And based on conversations we’ve had, many students have come to believe that teachers and administrators don’t care about the bullying, or even that they condone it. We’ve spoken with students who lost trust in their school because no one did anything to support them in these moments.

“We hope that this student is receiving the support he needs and deserves, and that both schools take the proper steps to address this incident and the larger issue of racism and bullying in our schools.”

Meserve said the school will be conducting a thorough investigation.

“We would look at any information we have,” she said. “So talking to anyone who might have been present and heard it, we will review any videos from the game that we have, we talk to the athletic director, the coach from Cony, to see if they have any information to share with us. And then also talking to our own students to see if there’s anybody who heard any interactions between the two athletes.”

The incident at Mt. Blue, in Farmington, comes at a time when racial tension in the United States is on the rise. According to a 2018 NBC News poll, many Americans think race relations are a major problem in America. There have also been several racial incidents in high school sports nationwide. USA Today, for example, documented racism at high school football games in the fall 2018.

It’s unclear, however, if racial incidents are on the rise in high school sports.

Bruce Howard, a National Federation of State High School Associations spokesman, said there is no data on reported racial incidents. Richard Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, said the MPA doesn’t keep track of racial incidents either, and that the policy is almost always to let schools handle incidents on their own.

“Unless one school files a charge against the other, there would be no reason, and we wouldn’t have any authority, to get involved,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a major problem. I certainly wouldn’t stick my head in the sand and say that it never occurs. I think some of the things that are happening … or haven’t happened in politics at the state level and are going on at the national level now make certain people seem to think that it’s OK to say those types of things.

“Obviously, from our perspective, they’re absolutely never OK.”

Meserve, the RSU 9 superintendent, said the school takes the nature of the allegation seriously.

“Any time there’s an accusation of inappropriate student conduct, it concerns us,” she said. “It’s in our … code of conduct that students are always expected to act with respect towards others and to refrain from any form of bullying or harassment or hazing while participating as a representative of Mt. Blue. We take it seriously if there’s an accusation that that code of conduct has not been followed.”

Editor’s note: A photo depicting basketball players from Mt. Blue and Cony high schools that was posted on this page earlier today, along with a story about a racial incident reported at Cony on Saturday, should not have been posted with that story. It was a file photo of a prior game between the two schools and not connected in any way with the incident at the school. The students depicted in that photo have no connection with Saturday’s complaint. We deeply regret the error and apologize to the students in that photo.
— Judith Meyer, Executive Editor 

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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