Needham High School's principal tonight broke his silence on his controversial decision to suspend several players on the girls soccer team for allegedly hazing teammates, saying the students' actions "were not in keeping with the school's core values, mission, or code of conduct.''
In an email to Needham High parents shortly before 6 pm, Jonathan D. Pizzi said that "the investigation has concluded, and we have taken disciplinary steps to address these behaviors.''
The Globe reported today that two parents said 10 girls on the team were suspended from school and 12 or 13 were prevented from playing in a district tournament game against Brockton earlier this week.
Describing the hazing incident, parents of the girls on the team stressed it was all in fun. They said some of the girls were blindfolded, and at least one was told to wear a dog collar and two were hit in the face with whipped cream pies. Others were made to sing songs or sing the praises of the seniors.
In his email, Pizzi said that "sometimes terrific kids make awful mistakes, and it is our collective job as adults - parents and educators alike - to hold them accountable for their behavior and to help them learn and grow from the experience as well. We know that children flourish in an atmosphere of positive reinforcement, firm consequences, and forgiveness.''
"The students and families involved in the situation,'' he continued, "have been through an incredible amount of public turmoil and emotional distress over the past week. The student-athletes have faced administrative consequences and public scrutiny and have worked with diligence and sincerity within their own ranks to re-establish bonds of trust and camaraderie.''
The suspension of the girls before Tuesday’s state tournament game outraged parents so much that some asked a judge to allow their children to play in the game against Brockton and to block their suspensions. The judge refused; the varsity team lost 7-1.
Pizzi did not address the legal challenge in his email, but he said that he and his staff "will work to ensure the emotional and physical safety of all students. We will continue to implement our social emotional learning plan and to communicate school and district policies, behavioral expectations, and Commonwealth law with consistency and clarity so that every member of Needham High is treated with respect and dignity.''
Referring to his public silence during the controversy this week, Pizzi said: "thank you for your patience in awaiting this message as I worked to protect the privacy and due process rights of all students and families involved.''