New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Official: Students waving Israeli flag meant no harm

- By Liz Hardaway

WESTPORT — Officials have determined the Cheshire High School students waving an Israeli flag at a football game Friday night meant no harm, according to Westport Public Schools Superinten­dent Thomas Scarice.

Scarice, Cheshire Superinten­dent Jeff Solan and law enforcemen­t concluded their investigat­ion Thursday into claims on social media that antisemiti­c and racist comments were made in the stands at a Friday night football game between Cheshire and Staples high schools. Social media posts also claimed there was a Confederat­e flag present and students waved an Israeli flag.

As one Staples student commented on the claims, he was met with “unspeakabl­e racial slurs” from an anonymous, untraceabl­e account, Scarice said.

Scarice said Thursday there was no corroborat­ion of racist or antisemiti­c chants, nor the presence of a Confederat­e flag at the game.

Administra­tors confirmed Thursday that two Cheshire students, who are Jewish, waved an Israeli flag throughout most of the game Friday night, particular­ly when Cheshire scored or Staples committed a penalty.

After halftime Friday night, members of the Staples cheer team approached police, asking that the Israeli flag be taken down. Though Cheshire police and administra­tion asked the students to stop displaying the flag, Staples students reported the flag was still waving later in the game, Scarice said.

A social media account, “Wreckers SuperFans,” and the Staples cheer team later posted an image on Instagram of the Israeli flag being waved at the game. The accounts also claimed there were antisemiti­c and racist remarks, insulting chants throughout the game and a Confederat­e flag.

The “Wreckers SuperFans” and cheer team accounts later took down their posts, Scarice said.

Both school administra­tions did confirm that chants of “Daddy’s money” were directed at Staples students and players, Scarice said.

On Saturday morning, a Staples student of color, who wasn’t at the game, responded to an earlier post about the game, posting “The audacity.”

The slurs came from an untraceabl­e and anonymous “burner” account. Scarice said the school has offered to provide support for the student and the messages have been turned over to the police.

Both school administra­tions determined the two students waving the Israeli flag are Jewish and they brought the flag to the game “because it was a school spirit ‘Red, White & Blue Nite’ in the student section,” Scarice said.

A rabbi from a temple in Hamden, where the boys worship, added he has known the boys their entire lives and that they are not mean-spirited. He also said they are very proud of their faith.

Scarice said the rabbi “is completely confident that there was no malice or antisemiti­c intended and that unfortunat­ely these accusation­s have mischaract­erized the two boys.”

Moving forward, Scarice said he and Cheshire Superinten­dent Jeff Solan will offer an invitation to students from both schools involved in the night to meet together “so that amends can be made and appropriat­e closure can be provided to both groups of students.” The discussion will be facilitate­d by the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticu­t.

Scarice also said him and Solan are inviting all of the students involved to participat­e in the “Walk Against Hate” in Hartford on Oct. 10.

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