Catholic Memorial & Newton students exchange offensive chants at game

Students from Catholic Memorial School and Newton North High School are both in trouble after they were overheard making offensive remarks to each other at a basketball game Friday.

Witnesses said students from Catholic Memorial and Newton North High School could both be heard yelling offensive chants at each other. But people were most upset about Catholic Memorial fans chanting "You killed Jesus" at Newton North, which has a large Jewish population. Witnesses said the Catholic Memorial fans were responding to an offensive chant directed at them from the Newton North section.

"Catholic Memorial School is deeply disturbed by the behavior of a group of student spectators who made an unacceptable chant Friday night while playing Newton North," Catholic Memorial President Dr. Peter Folan said in a statement.

Newton Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David Fleishman also released a statement: "I am confident that the CM administration will address the incident with their students and the Newton North administration as well."

Folan said the students were reprimanded and apologized personally.

Statement from Anti Defamation League New England Regional Director Robert O. Trestan:

"We are appalled at the behavior of some fans during Friday night’s game and are deeply concerned about why they thought this chant was appropriate at a high school basketball game. Hate speech has no place in the stands of any sporting event. This ugly behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our community. We hope that this incident will turn into a teachable moment for all of those involved.

ADL is grateful for the quick intervention by both Newton North High School and Catholic Memorial School officials. Additionally, ADL is grateful to Cardinal Sean O’Malley for raising his voice against this behavior and sending a clear message to our community: Anti-Semitism in any form is simply unacceptable."

School administrators say they will hold a series of assemblies addressing the incident on Monday. After the assemblies, they released a statement:

Following a series of meetings over the weekend, Catholic Memorial School has begun to take steps, both immediate and long-term, to ensure that the incident involving anti-Semitic chanting Friday night becomes an opportunity to better educate our students about intolerance.

Immediate next steps for CM include a series of assemblies today.  Administrators met with faculty first, and are meeting throughout the day with students by grade to address the incident Friday night.  We will hold an open forum later in the day for all students to voice their concerns and ask questions.

We will use this incident as a teaching opportunity to help students understand the gravity of the actions of student fans, the hurt they have caused to Newton North High School, the residents of Newton, the broader Jewish community and their school.  

On Saturday, Catholic Memorial reached out to the Anti-Defamation League to both apologize and to seek assistance with identifying resources for educating our students about Anti-Semitism. CM President Peter Folan will also continue conversations with Newton North High School Principal Mark Aronson.

“We will also strengthen and enhance our curriculum to better educate our students on the subjects of intolerance and bigotry.  Student behavior and leadership responsibilities will be included as part of a revised curriculum.  These next steps will be made with a great deal of deliberation, thought and input from the Jewish community and the Archdiocese of Boston,” President Peter Folan said.

There are no excuses for the actions of the student-spectators who took part in the chanting, their behavior was appalling; their actions and words do not align with the teachings or the value system of our school or the Catholic Church.  

After consultation with the administration of Newton North High School, Catholic Memorial has decided that the varsity basketball team will take part in the MIAA Division 1 semifinal contest tonight out of respect for the players and coaches who would like to finish what they have worked so hard for.  

The Catholic Memorial administration has told members of the student body that they cannot attend tonight’s game.

(Copyright (c) 2016 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)