HADDONFIELD, N.J. – The Haddonfield High School 2018 boys’ lacrosse season has come to an abrupt end as state civil rights officials look into allegations filed by Sterling High School that one of its athletes was called a racial slur during a track meet.
The Haddonfield school district on Friday afternoon announced the rest of the lacrosse team’s season has been canceled.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports, confirmed Friday that it received a report alleging the slur and notified the state Division of Civil Rights. The NJSIAA “has asked both schools to provide a more detailed reporting of the alleged incident,” spokesman Michael Cherenson said in an email.
Leland Moore, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office and its civil rights division, said Friday “that we have received this particular referral and are reviewing it.”
The incident allegedly occurred May 1 when the Sterling and Haddon Heights girls’ track teams competed at Haddonfield in a tri-meet. A member of the Haddonfield boys’ lacrosse team allegedly told a ninth-grade competitor to “get off the track” and called the girl the N-word, according to the complaint.
“There is no room for hate of any kind at Haddonfield Schools and it will not be tolerated,” Superintendent David Lindenmuth said in an emailed statement Friday afternoon. “It is not who we are and it does not represent our student body.”
The statement described steps taken in response to the incident, which included ending the boys’ lacrosse campaign. The Haddons were the top team in the Olympic Conference’s Patriot Division with an 8-0 record in league play and 9-5 mark overall.
“During the course of this investigation, some issues were discovered that are completely unacceptable for this community,” Lindenmuth’s statement said.
“In light of those discoveries,” he said, the school district “has taken, and will be taking” these actions:
- Cancellation of the 2018 boys’ lacrosse season.
- School system outreach made to the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League and others to assist with future training materials and methods.
- A dialogue on “diversity and inclusiveness” driven by the student body and its groups that includes the school’s diversity club, peer mediators and human relations club.
- Training on “diversity, sensitivity and empathy” for students, coaches and staff.
NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White said “we applaud the swift, decisive action taken by Haddonfield Public Schools.”
Lloyd Henderson, who heads the Camden County East branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he was alerted of the situation last week.
The slur was allegedly made during the lacrosse team’s practice when a small group of athletes crossed the track near the Sterling runner, according to Henderson.
“She was devastated it and it changed her whole outlook and demeanor for the rest of the day,” he said. “A friend noticed this and asked her what happened. She then told the Sterling girls’ track head coach and the head coach told Haddonfield’s lacrosse coach.
“It’s not looking at it as just a racial thing. It’s harassment.”