BRUNSWICK, Maine — Brunswick Town Hall was packed Wednesday evening as dozens of parents and athletes attended the meeting to speak out against the decision to cancel the Brunswick High School football team’s season.
"We are not here to challenge the investigative tactics. We are not here to challenge the outcomes for the few who have been held accountable. We are not here to fight for the return of any coach," Ida Beal, a parent of a Brunswick High football player, said. "We are here to discuss how the actions of a few student-athletes have had a ripple effect that has been cast onto the entire program. We are here to make sure the lessons learned by the boys who were innocent, or a victim do not stop here."
Beal was one of two people that spoke during the public comment portion of Wednesday's school board meeting. Many of the parents and athletes in attendance wore Brunswick High School Football jerseys and other clothing.
Wednesday's meeting comes one week after Superintendent Phil Potenziano announced on the school department's website that the team's season had been canceled, and head coach Dan Cooper was no longer affiliated with the athletics department.
Beal and a student-athlete that spoke during public comment said the athletes who were not involved in the alleged hazing incident are now facing harassment and bullying in and out of school.
"These events have been discussed in the school, including classrooms, the community, and everywhere these kids are present. There have been many incidents where innocent or victimized players have refused to go to school due to the conduct of teachers and refused to go into the community with their friends and parents due to the constant reminders and ridicule they are facing. These are the words being used about boys who did no wrong or were wronged," Beal said.
Senior football player Matthew Duhaine was the only other person to speak during public comment. He also echoed that he and his teammates are facing harassment, and the punishment is unfair to those not connected to the incident.
"I am not attempting to lessen any actions that took place at Thomas Point Beach. I am merely here to discuss what transpired after the fact. This last month has been gut-wrenching, to say the least," Duhaine said during the meeting.
"Every day seemed to bring out a new reason for us to dread going to school. We were intimidated by the administration, bullied by teachers as well as other students. They grouped the team as a whole, talked behind our backs, to our faces, and some teachers openly scolded the team in their classrooms," Duhaine said.
Players and parents are now asking the school board to do whatever possible to get athletes back on the field safely. According to the Maine Principals Association handbook for this athletic season, because the team's season was canceled mid-year, they will not be eligible to compete for the next two football seasons.
The MPA guidelines state, "Any member school which submits a game schedule in Heal point or Crabtree sports for a specific sport and does not complete that season’s schedule, will be prohibited from participating in varsity competition leading to postseason play in that sport for the following two years after that season. This action may be appealed to the Interscholastic Management Committee for a waiver in extenuating circumstances."
Parents and athletes asked the school board Wednesday to petition the MPA to allow them to return to play next year.
"I'm here to ask you to petition to the MPA to reinstate the program so these Dragons can take the field again next year," Duhaine said.
After Duhaine and Beal spoke, the public comment portion of the meeting was ended. Nearly all in attendance then left Brunswick Town Hall.
No parents or athletes who attended the meeting agreed to speak with NEWS CENTER Maine about the issue.
Brunswick High School Athletic Director Aaron Watson told school board members over Zoom that he's working to find a solution to get athletes not involved in the hazing incident back together and on the field in some capacity. He also said he plans to speak with MPA officials.