BURRILLVILLE – Saying it would be his only comment on the issue, Supt. Michael Sollitto said this week that “any representative” of Burrillville High School, “found to be making inappropriate comments” toward opposing players on any team, has “faced disciplinary action.”
The statement came in response to allegations from school officials in Central Falls last week, who said Burrillville fans made offensive comments toward their team during a girls’ volleyball match against the Broncos.
The students were donning American flags and wearing red, white and blue as part of a theme night to cheer on the team, and can be heard chanting “U.S.A.” in videos of the incident posted on social media.
Following the game, Central Falls Supt. Stephanie Downey Toledo called on the Rhode Island Interscholastic League to launch an investigation.
Sollitto asked parents in a letter sent Thursday, Sept. 26 to “refrain from social media comments the can exacerbate the problem.”
State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green weighed in on the issue this week in her weekly field memo to educators.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to racism, wherever we see and hear it,” said Infante-Green. “We have to name it, talk about it and make clear that it will not be tolerated.”
“What took place is unacceptable, especially in a venue that is designed to foster sportsmanship and collegiality,” said Infante-Green. “I still consider myself a teacher, first and foremost, and this is a teaching moment for all of us.”
“Let’s not sweep this under the rug. Let’s face it head on. I encourage all superintendents to talk to your leadership teams, and principals to your teachers.”
In a letter sent to Burrillville parents on Wednesday, Oct. 2, Sollitto said the school remains committed to addressing issues of equality and diversity.
“Part of our expectation of our students and student athletes is to demonstrate good sportsmanship at all times and to respect each other and our opponents,” Sollitto stated. “Moving forward we are employing a multi-stage approach to educating our students on the importance of recognizing and respecting the cultural perspective of others.”
The superintendent said the district is working with the Rhode Island Commission on Prejudice & Bias and the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence to develop presentations and workshops for students and faculty.