North Smithfield football team gets green light to resume practice Monday, with ‘enhanced monitoring’

Parents and football players were critical of the decision to suspend the team, discussing the issue at a School Committee meeting in July.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Supt. Michael St. Jean gave the North Smithfield High School football program permission to resume practice in a letter to parents dated Friday, August 12.

The team has been on suspension since mid-June, when St. Jean halted all all practices, workouts and games citing an allegation of hazing.

On Friday, the superintendent said that although an investigation of the allegations by the North Smithfield Police Department is still ongoing, he has decided to allow practice to resume starting on Monday, August 15.

“I know this has been a uniquely challenging time,” St. Jean wrote. “Several of you have contacted me to express your frustration with the process. I recognize the dedication, commitment and passion for this sport so many of our student athletes and their families share.”

“The decision to allow practice to commence has not been an easy one and will come with added layers of student-athlete conduct expectations and enhanced monitoring by adults,” he continued.

Some parents, athletes and fans have been critical of St. Jean for his handling of the incident, and the decision to suspend the team, also prohibiting players from participating in other school sports, prior to completion of an investigation.

Podcaster Mike Rebello covered the issue on his show, Can We Keep It Real, following the communication.

“I think it’s horrible because what you did is, you sentenced these kids before you even knew if a crime was committed,” Rebello said. “You should have never taken football away.”

The team, a co-op with Mount Saint Charles Academy, is scheduled to play its first game against Lincoln on Friday, Sept. 16.

In his communication to parents, St. Jean said he will continue to evaluate continuation of the program in conjunction with school leaders, including new Principal Amy Burns and Athletic Director Matthew Tek.

“The safety of all of our students is our top priority, and we will remain vigilant as we await the final results of law enforcement’s investigation,” St. Jean wrote.

He added that the district plans to conduct its own investigation regardless of the police results.

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  1. Looks like something did happen as confirmed by several students who saw the event. But now the assaulted person is afraid to come forward in fear of retaliation. I guess the superintendent was right. I think the folks that want the superintendent fired should apologize. See the turn to ten story and quote from the AG.

    • Thank you Donna. My sentiments exactly. Would you want your child to suffer the repercussion of outing other kids on a football team? Just the comments that called for the Superintendent to be fired tells you all you need to know. Inappropriate behavior was exhibited and some students stated that in their interview. It would seem to me that some parents should apologize to any victim or victims that were injured by this trauma.

    • Donna F and Mary, How is collective punishment of the entire team an acceptable response to an accusation of something inappropriate, made by 3rd parties, with no complainant and no crime identified? How is it even remotely ok that every kid on the team was subject to a practice ban, is subject to continuing monitoring, many are being aggressively harassed online, and some will lose the chance to play football at the college level?

      • If the team as a whole (and their parents) cooperated fully with the investigation and didn’t form a cone of silence regarding the “highly inappropriate” behaviors that were raised to officials then those who crossed the line would likely be the only ones impacted by accusations. Which in turn would help the victims feel safer and less afraid of retaliation if they came forward because they’d know their teammates/peers had their back vs standing there silently and not speaking up, thus halting the investigation. To me this shows that any player/family that didn’t consent to being interviewed by the police cares more about football and protecting the accused than standing up for those who were at a minimum victims of some degree of highly inappropriate behavior and that choice of words by the AG is very unsettling and likely the most they could officially say on the record so I expect the real story is quite disturbing.

  2. I covered this story from the beginning. And I’m also the one person that stood up for these kids every step of the way. I was besides my self at the concession stand ribbon cutting. There was only one person that was there that approached the boys and showed support. It was not the superintendent, was not the principal, was not athletic Director Mat Tek, he would not even look these kids in the eyes. One lady I think a SC member Ohara.
    These kids were sentenced before we even knew a crime was committed.
    They were sentenced and blasted in front of the school and even the town,
    I know of colleges that now may not even speak to these boys now. At this point I’m sorry is past due. No victim-No wittiness… where’s the justice. I’m sorry needs to have a value at this point. Futures changed on that day in June.

    • Please see the report from the AG as noted on Turn To Ten. It is clear that inappropriate behavior did occur. We need to remember that if a person was a victim, that individual would be fearful of repercussion, as might other students who were fearful of telling the truth. The only people to be sorry for are the poor students that may have been victimized and shame on those who might not have actually told the truth.

  3. That is so true ! Mr.St Jeans employment should be TERMINATED ! Who appointed him Judge and Jury to something with NO evidence and NO complaint ! This is very well said Sylvia .

    • I would assume he was hired to enforce procedures and follow protocol in situations like this. It actually looks like he was doing his job. Also by following the process he actually wasn’t acting as judge & jury. He put it in the hands of qualified investigators. If he would have ignored the allegation and made a decision that it was not real on his own and decided not to look into then he’d be acting as sole judge & jury. It’s absolutely terrible if this was some sort of fake allegation and hopefully the team can rally and hold their heads up high knowing they were cleared. It’s sad that there are awful people who are considering them automatically guilty and making judgments and they’re having to deal with that side of it. That breaks my heart. But there are also many people in town who haven’t made judgements about them but understand the seriousness of the issue and that it needs to be handled fully by the professionals and law enforcement. Because god forbid it was found to be true and it was brushed under the rug there’d be just as many people screaming the school officials, town, etc didn’t do enough.

      • Jen, 100% agree with your post. The administrator had no choice in regard to the team’s suspension after hearing the allegations. Due process needed to be followed and fortunately for the team the allegations have not been substantiated. The team has been reinstated and I am sure most of the residents in North Smithfield will rally behind them.

      • Jen & Pat, I 1000% agree with you. It’s good to see some more logical, grounded, people commenting on this whole situation as I’m at a complete loss for words by so much of what I’m reading in the comments about this everywhere. I am happy to see people who understand the process that needs to be followed with allegations of this nature and I can’t imagine the superintendent handling it any differently than he did and am a bit shocked that anyone would be more concerned about football and/or any gossip about them over ensuring the accusations were thoroughly investigated and that everyone on the team (past, present & future) are safe. Accusations and/or gossip are nothing in the big picture if someone had been assaulted and that is the bottom line. If the accusations are unfounded, like everyone is saying, then this will be old news soon and those accused will be cleared and that is what they can use to help them stand tall and help them overcome all of this and move forward. I can’t imagine why someone would make false accusations like this, but if they did, it just absolutely disgusts me almost as much as if the accusations were real.

  4. A student-athlete who is identified by colleges as having been on a team that was investigated for ‘hazing’ ENDS the possibility that the student will be looked at for scholarships or even to play at the college level.
    This means that one person with an agenda can make a single, totally unsubstantiated accusation, and cause lasting significant material harm to young players. Ultimately, however it is the fault of parents of the players who did not stand up and say NO to the superintendent and NO to the police. Parents who allowed their children to be interviewed by investigators when there was NO complainant and NO evidence that a crime even took place. Parents who are today complacent that their children will be subject to whatever whimsical program of additional monitoring the school system decides to enact and are expected to be grateful that their kids are being allowed to PLAY. We have a system of justice in this country which says that there must be evidence that a crime has been committed before a person can be subjected to penalty. I know of no reason why this system of justice doesn’t apply in North Smithfield. Parents need to stand up to the stupid, reactionary, hyper-controlling school system and reject this until and unless there is evidence that something wrong happened. There should be NO quarter given and no cooperation with authorities that abuse their position in this way, simply because hazing is a hot-button issue. If students on the football team did something wrong, there should be consequences for the students involved, but collective punishment, without proof that a crime has even been committed is a very dark, very dangerous thing to accept. As parents, we need to stand up for our children. Football is a game, but this isn’t, it is rotten to the core.

  5. The team never should have been suspended. “IF” a crime really happened why were they “GUILTY” before being proved “INNOCENT”? I would be willing to bet that if something did happen……the people involved are more than likely not even in school no longer .

  6. I predicted St Jean would cave and allow football on August 18th. I was only a week off. I guess the supporters of the concession stand got to St Jean and convinced him that it was in his best interest. Makes you wonder what we are teaching our young people.

    • Cave? He didn’t have a choice when the police department concluded that there was no victim and no witness.

      • Deborah. As a football parent, I want to thank you for being one of the few people (and I do mean few) in North Smithfield to publicly support these student athletes. Innocent until proven guilty has been lost on so many in society. So many come on forums like this with no facts, no proof. Just quick to accuse and convict. These players deserved better than this. The truth has prevailed and will. School Administrators handled this so poorly from the start.

  7. If these allegations are true then we are not teaching our youth anything about taking responsibility for your actions. Even if it determined that only a couple of players are found at fault the whole team needs to be penalized. Just like in real life a couple of bad apples spoils it for the whole bunch. I really wish parents and students would get more excited about learning than football.

    • If it’s not true? What have these children learned that the school system can destroy their reputation on hearsay. How did it come this far without a victim or witness.

    • What if they’re false? They ruined these kids reputation on hearsay. What lesson did the kids learn then? That the school department can destroy your reputation with no evidence.

    • David, actually, in real life, when allegations are made, you do not get punished. You get punished when you are convicted. This all stemmed from a parent sending an email. There is no victim, there is no crime, no one, “caved”. He cannot keep punishing an innocent group of kids. End of story.

  8. So they humiliated these kids for no reason. No victim or witness has come forward and the Superintendent sent an email to the entire town and it made local news. He should be fired and the SC should be looked into as well. WTH this is disgusting but not surprising with this current schools administration.

    • Deborah I could not agree with you more ! This is “TYPICAL” North Smithfield politics ! They do as they please WITHOUT any RESPECT for the people of town. You are correct about firings…….but it should start at the top with the T/A , T/C , S/C and anyone else that has ANT kind of power in the town !

      • The TC and TA have nothing to do with this mess. It was the superintendent that made the decision to do this without any evidence it ever happened.