HADDONFIELD, N.J. — A gaggle of photographers and reporters stood outside Haddonfield High School at 1 p.m. Monday in anticipation of a student walkout expected after the school district announced Friday it had canceled the rest of the 2018 boys’ lacrosse season.
That cancellation followed an investigation that interim Superintendent David Lindenmuth said spanned about nine days and across “several school districts” into allegations that a Haddons’ lacrosse player called a Sterling High School girls’ track athlete the N-word at a track meet here May 1.
No students walked out Monday. Instead, around 1:15 p.m., two came forward to ask the media why they were camped out.
Then they spoke about the situation and its effect on the student body and community at Haddonfield High.
“There’s no walkout,” 18-year-old senior Ruth Fernands said. “We’ve been spending class time discussing what went on and it’s been everything anyone can talk about recently.
“It’s mostly changes happening behind closed doors and in people’s hearts and minds.”
Classmate Grey Cooley, a 17-year-old junior, wasn’t surprised by what happened.
“Teenagers, especially when you’re in high school you think you’re on top of the world when really, you have to also understand you have to follow the rules in public grounds and on campus,” Cooley said. “There are limitations of what you can say and or can do, and calling out someone by color, gender, sexuality, orientation or anything like that, it’s uncalled for and it’s not necessary.”
Cooley – a minority student – would have participated in a walkout for the boys’ lacrosse team, but understood why one didn’t occur.
“I would have supported the lacrosse walkout only due to just because one person said this one thing doesn’t mean the whole team has to be punished,” Cooley explained. “But, I also understand the administrative point of they don’t know who it was. They can’t pinpoint the identification I guess, I don’t know.”
Lindenmuth, who is black, told the Courier-Post he believes a prudent process led to the district’s decision to cancel the season, reach out to the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League, and require future sensitivity training for all at the 92-year-old school.
“We based the decision on the facts we had as far as interviews done by multiple people with multiple students across several school districts that were at the event,” Lindenmuth said. “We felt like this was the best decision we could make.”