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.