Students who enjoy attending home matches featuring the Burrillville High girls’ volleyball program – varsity and junior varsity – will not be permitted to attend the next regularly-scheduled contest at the Bronco Dome.

The BHS student-free environment for next Wednesday’s match against Pilgrim was one of several forms of discipline that was handed down Friday in a special meeting called by the R.I. Interscholastic League’s Principals’ Committee on Athletics. The meeting took place in response to a Facebook post made after the Sept. 24 girls’ volleyball match between visiting Central Falls and host Burrillville, where fans in attendance at the Bronco Dome were accused of “racist, intimidating” behavior toward the Central Falls players.

Both school districts on Friday went before the PCOA to present their findings from their respective investigations.

In a press release issued by the RIIL, it stated that the Principals’ Committee and administrators from both schools agreed that the Burrillville student spectators were exhibiting behavior (singing, yelling and demonstrating loud, boisterous behavior during play) that was intimidating and distracting to the opposing team and created an unsportsmanlike and culturally insensitive environment.

It was also acknowledged that the Central Falls student-athletes heard culturally insensitive comments during the course of the contest – a three-game sweep by the host Broncos.

“These comments were intimidating and disrespectful to the players and coach. The Central Falls athletes and coach did not feel welcomed and respected throughout the game and in the parking lot after the contest. The environment in the gym was not welcoming, respectful or sportsmanlike,” was what the press release stated.

Burrillville administrators concluded that the actions of the students present for the Sept. 24 match against C.F. were “unsportsmanlike, culturally insensitive, and did not support the core values of Burrillville High School.”

Besides prohibited Burrillville students from being in the stands for the next home match, the PCOA unanimously approved placing Burrillville High School on a one-year probation for sportsmanship. Two members of the PCOA are Burrillville superintendent Michael Sollitto and Burrillville High principal Michael Whaley.

Burrillville High administrators submitted a corrective action plan that was accepted by the PCOA. Some of the measures include disciplining students in accordance with district policies should they make specific culturally insensitive comments. All future game themes – the theme for the game against Central Falls was Red, White & Blue – must be approved by the Burrillville High School administration.

In addition, administrators and additional game supervisors will be present at all remaining Burrillville High home girls’ volleyball matches and escort visiting teams in the parking lot. Burrillville High School will coordinate with the Burrillville Police Department to patrol the parking lot after games and will also partner with the Nonviolence Institute and the Rhode Island Commission on Prejudice and Bias to run assemblies and workshops on cultural competence. The Burrillville High School Diversity Council will be included in discussions around a number of activities to address cultural competence.

The R.I. Interscholastic League will monitor the corrective actions provided by the Burrillville Administration to avoid further issues.

The Times/Call learned that from Central Falls, superintendent Stephanie Downey Toledo, high school principal Bob McCarthy, and girls’ volleyball head coach Rich Sousa were present for Friday’s meeting at RIIL headquarters.

From the press release issued Friday, “The RIIL will continue to support its member schools in establishing and enforcing high standards of appropriate behavior at all athletic events. As educators, it is our job to encourage ways to promote and exhibit good sportsmanship, to identify inappropriate behavior and to take steps to correct any unsportsmanlike behavior when necessary. In addition, we expect all member schools to educate and embrace the cultural diversity of students throughout the state.”

Burrillville and Central Falls will play one more time during the regular season – October 23 at C.F.

Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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