Duxbury Public Schools fired the head coach of its high school football team as it investigates the use of offensive language, including anti-Semitic remarks, in a recent game, officials announce Wednesday.
Friday's varsity football game as well as the junior varsity and freshman games scheduled for Saturday and Monday were canceled as well. And the district is hiring an independent investigator to look into the allegations.
"In collaboration with the Hingham administration, a mutual decision has been made to cancel the varsity football game scheduled for Friday night, as well as the JV and Freshman games scheduled for Saturday and Monday," Duxbury Public Schools announced in a Facebook post Wednesday. "We believe this is a necessary step in light of the recent incident involving the use of anti-semitic language by Duxbury football players."
The district said a decision about future games will be made at a later date. High school football is being played in the spring this year in Massachusetts after the fall season was pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic.
NBC10 Boston had reached out to the former head football coach, David Maimaron, for comment before the announcement that the school district had "severed ties" with him was issued Wednesday.
On Monday, he issued a statement calling the language used March 12 "inexcusable."
“I want to extend my apology for the insensitive, crass and inappropriate language used in the game on March 12th. Using the term was careless, unnecessary and most importantly hurtful on its face — inexcusable,” Maimaron said at the time.
"I can't imagine being a player on another team or a parent, and being Jewish or a minority, and hearing that," Olivia Nelson, a senior at Duxbury High School, said Wednesday.
An investigation has been underway since last week, and the team is set to undergo mandatory training. The play-calling system is no longer in place.
But Edward R. Mitnick of Just Training Solutions, LLC, has been brought in to investigate the allegations as well, officials said Wednesday. They acknowledged calls from the community for immediate action to be taken, but said "it is important that we get accurate information and facts in this case."
The district is also working with the Anti-Defamation League on how it responds in the near- and long-terms, officials said in a message to members of the community.
"The outrage is real, warranted, and we hear it. The fact that members of our school community used such offensive language, including anti-Semitic language, is horrifying and disappointing," they said.
Duxbury's school superintendent, John Antonucci, had confirmed Tuesday that the "highly offensive language" used by the team included anti-Semitic remarks, and said there may have been other "inappropriate and derogatory language" used as well.
"I think the season should be shut down," said Rev. Catherine Cullen, who leads First Parish Church in town, as well as the Prejudice Free Duxbury group. "This is not who we are, we have no tolerance for this."
In a letter written to town selectmen from Prejudice Free Duxbury, the group said, "The choice of words such as 'Auschwitz,' 'Gas Chamber,' 'Hitler' and 'Holocaust' can have one intent only — to hurt and offend … The trivialization of genocide by coaches and players sets a precedent that has no place in building young men into future leaders."
Brandeis University professor Keren McGinity, who specializes in American Jewish history, called the language "appalling."
"Using a word like Auschwitz as a call play is absolutely unacceptable," said McGinity. "It shows incredible disrespect to the murder of a million people at that particular death camp."
Duxbury school officials initially announced on Monday that the team had incorporated offensive language into its play-calling system for adjusting plays on the field, but didn't characterize the language beyond that it had religious connotations.
The team used terms like "Auschwitz" while calling plays against Plymouth North High School last month, according to Robert Trestan, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League's New England chapter.
"It trivializes Judaism and it trivializes the Holocaust," he said.
Antonucci has said that school officials have been talking to parents and other people in the community, including the ADL, about the seriousness of the allegations.
Trestan told NBC10 Boston Tuesday he wanted to know how long the situation has been going on for.
"Auschwitz is one of history's worst known death camps," said Trestan. "It really has no place being used as a substitute for a football play."
The initial statement from Duxbury schools officials noted that the adults involved with the Duxbury High School football team also bore responsibility.
"It is important to note that while the players clearly demonstrated poor judgment, the responsibility for this incident also lies with the adults overseeing the program," a letter read. "In short, this was a systemic failure."
The ADL met with school staff Tuesday to provide guidance, hoping to turn this into a learning opportunity.
"We expect the adults in a school environment to be the role models and we expect athletes to be peer leaders," Trestan said. "There are indications here there was a fairly significant breakdown of those expectations."