📷 Two signs at the protest site read “Educate your kids on the issue of racism and bullying. Transferred to Quaboag, Racially targeted again at Saturday’s game by several Tantasqua students.”

Biracial student allegedly called “monkey” by classmates

By Sarah Champagne
Citizen Chronicle Managing Editor
Sarah@TheCitizenChronicle.com

Update Oct. 18, 2018: Erin Nosek, Ed.D has provided The Citizen Chronicle with the following statement:

“Sunday morning the High School Principal and I were made aware of a complaint by a parent from another school, regarding an alleged incident that occurred at a soccer game on Saturday. We are currently conducting an investigation. As part of the investigation, we met with the parent on Sunday morning, and are taking the necessary next steps to continue the investigation. Tantasqua does not tolerate bullying or discrimination in any form. As this ongoing investigation involves personnel and students, we are unable to comment any further.”

STURBRIDGE — In recent years, the use of at-home DNA tests through Ancestry.com or other services for genealogical purposes has become increasingly popular.  By some accounts, the number of people using this type of service doubled between mid-2016 and 2017. You or someone you know has probably used one of these services to find out more about “where you came from.” But what if you were to proudly share with others what you learned about your heritage, only to find yourself subject to newfound harassment and discrimination as a result of your uncovered ethnicity?

That is the situation that Mark Huard of Warren alleges his son, Dominic, experienced on a long-term basis as a student at Tantasqua Regional High School, without appropriate support or attempts at resolution by district leadership. Dominic had been a Tantasqua student since seventh grade. Before that, he attended an elementary school in Warren. Huard says that his son played soccer at the junior high school level, and occasionally experienced some teasing and minor bullying that the family assumed was “simple kid stuff” normal to that age.

Around this time, Dominic’s mother, Laura, completed one of those popular DNA kits to understand her heritage. Although she always knew that she was “biracial of some sort,” she was uncertain of her exact ancestry. She would confirm through this test that she had 50 percent European ancestry and 50 percent African ancestry. She shared this with her sons, and Dominic was proud to learn this about his background. He and his older brother are both the children of Mark and Laura, but Dominic’s older brother has a darker complexion while Dominic has a lighter complexion.

Dominic shared his newfound knowledge of his ancestral ethnicity with his peers, and according to Huard, that is when the teasing escalated to racist bullying that began to impact Dominic’s mental health. Dominic hid the experience from his parents and they did not notice that anything was wrong until the normally good student brought home failing grades on his report card, three months into his freshman year at Tantasqua Senior High School. With the revelation that Dominic had African ancestry, other students had begun to call him “monkey” on an ongoing basis, the Huards allege.

Mark says that at one point, Dominic found the courage to confide in a teacher that the other kids were calling him “monkey.” Allegedly, the teacher stood at the front of the classroom and said, “Whoever is calling Dominic a monkey, they need to stop.” Mark says that the harassment then escalated even more.

By Dominic’s sophomore year, he was on the varsity soccer team at Tantasqua and had improved his grades, but the harassment and bullying continued, with peers  and even teammates continuing to call him “monkey.” Mark says that Dominic began to become more withdrawn, heading straight to his room after school and even refusing to eat.

“Something was wrong, you could see it in his poor face,” Mark reported.

Around that time, Dominic attended an “SOS” assembly at school, which presented the topic of suicide prevention. Dominic filled out a questionnaire on mental health, which caused him to be “red-flagged” as a suicide risk, the family says. Mark alleges no resources or follow-up were made available after the school’s guidance department provided the Huards with the information.

This is when Mark and Laura say they approached a vice principal to talk about the problem, including the racist label of “monkey” that other students used for Dominic and the impact on Dominic’s mental health. The family alleges the vice principal responded that because Tantasqua is a predominantly white school, they did not know how to handle issues of race and racism.

An effort by The Citizen Chronicle to obtain comment from administration at Tantasqua Regional High School was unsuccessful prior to publication of this article.

After a particularly difficult day when Dominic came off of the school bus in tears, he asked his parents if he could transfer to Quaboag Regional High School in Warren. They agreed it would be a good idea, and Dominic switched schools mid-year. That was February of this year. Mark says that Dominic has had a far better experience at Quaboag, finding acceptance and a healthy learning environment.

That improvement was interrupted Saturday, Oct. 20, when Dominic played in a varsity soccer game for his new school against Tantasqua. Mark says that at that game, Dominic’s former teammates continued the harassment by greeting him with “Hey, monkey,” and referring to him by the slur throughout the game. At one point, Mark says that Dominic bent down to get his equipment and a Tantasqua student pushed him down to the ground and called him “monkey” again. To top it off, Mark says that at the end of the game, instead of the usual “good game” and high-fives, players from Tantasqua refused to say “good game” and instead said “monk” or “monkey” to Dominic in the lineup.

That was the final straw for the determined father, who says he could not stand to see how the bullying impacted his son any longer. He decided the night after the game to be more vocal about his son’s experience with racism by protesting at the entrance of Tantasqua Regional High School.

Mark contacted the Sturbridge Police Department to find out what was allowed for public protests and to coordinate his efforts with law enforcement. A police officer met Mark at the site where his signs are now set up and provided Mark with guidance on the legal aspects of such activity.

“Every police and fire department should try to be like these guys,” Mark says. “They have been phenomenal in this process. They are high-class gentlemen and are true professionals,” he remarks of Police guidance for the protest.

Even as the signs were being set up and the protest began, at 7 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, the effort quickly dew attention.

“Within 15 minutes, principal [Michael] Lucas was here to talk to us. He was in his pajamas and slippers and the told my wife she shouldn’t be here,” Mark claims. Mark says Lucas tried to convince Laura that because there was nothing going on at the school on Sunday, they wouldn’t get any attention anyway and indicated they either had to or should leave.

Mark says that he was offered a meeting with Dr. Erin Nosek, the superintendent of Tantasqua schools, in her office that day,  but that the meeting was not productive. He alleges that the superintendent said she had left her own mother, who was blind and in the care of two minorities, to come to the meeting. Mark said Nosek pledged to follow up with him on Monday, but that call or visit never came.

The Tantasqua Superintendent’s Office did not return a request for comment from The Citizen Chronicle.

As far as the length or endpoint of the protest, Mark said he does not plan to give up any time soon.

“I’m here and I’m not moving until changes happen,” he said.

He plans to be at the same spot every day from “as early as I can get here” to “as late as I can stay.”

Charges of hate crimes and assault have been filed against several Tantasqua students, and for that reason, the Sturbridge Police Department cannot provide any comment.

“This is an open and active investigation. Other than that, I cannot comment,” Sturbridge Police Sgt. Sean Paine told The Citizen Chronicle.

 

Mark Huard stands in protest of racism that he says his son experienced at Tantasqua Regional High School, even after transferring to a different school. The sign reads “My bi-racial son was called a monkey 4 yrs. School did nothing”
“Asking for Principal Lucas’ resignation and Vice Principal Dobrowolski”

 

“Asking for the immediate resignation of Coach Guertin as varsity coach”

 

 

 

 

 

30 thoughts on “Father Protests Alleged Racism at Tantasqua”

  1. Thank you for covering this story. We neeed to show our support for the victim and his family. If our schools, town government, other media, and many residents don’t show support, I seriously have to question why I still live in this “community”.

    1. I atteneed THS some 50 years ago when racial discrimination was prevalent but not at the school. We had students of all races there yet no issues as I can remember. I am appalled at the attitude of the school authorities. An assembly could be called and the children lectured, or sensitivity training for the kids could and should be conducted. It is heart breaking to hear of my alma mater not handling this issue and I consider it hardens that this child and his family being emotionally tortured.

  2. I am now 34 years old, but this story hit me hard. I am white and went to a mostly white school. I was literally bullied from kindergarten all the way through high school, until the day I quit. It had gotten so bad in junior high that my parents as well as myself on many separate occasions had gone to the principal and vice principal and everything. Nothing was done, and it did get worse! I loved school. And to learn but I couldn’t. It’s easy to say ignore it, it will go away, but that’s not the case. It never went away or stopped. I am so very ashamed of society and parents, especially now that it has gotten so much worse. I was suicidal at 13, probably long before that, but that’s when a teacher found one of my notebooks and got concerned and brought it to my parents attention. And my parents knew. But there was only so much they could do. I didn’t have another alternative for schooling. So, I suffered and quit. I quit long before I was legally able to which the school then decided to press truancy charges on me and I got arrested and dragged through court, put in partial DCF custody who had threatened to take me from my home because the school was a joke!! It’s a rich town too! So, needless to say, those words still haunt me… the trauma it brought on was beyond anything imaginable. I’m actually crying typing this csuse it hurts. And here we are, 15+ years later and nothing has changed. Kids are committing suicide at an alarming rate. I wonder why? Maybe cause parents aren’t involved or teach their kids that it’s wrong. Or they just want to be “friends” with their kids. Your job is to be a parent and make sure your child will give back to this world, not make it worse. And what’s harder for me is that I have an autistic teenager who is mostly non-verbal and I fear for him!!! It’s not just kids being kids, this an atrocity.

    1. Learn to battle through adversity, instead of just quitting. Every young adolescent goes through some sort of “bullying” when they’re in high school, it’s a part of growing up and maturing.

      1. MAYBE everyone goes through some sort of bullying, but certainly not to an endless, tormenting, and cruel extent, nor should they have to. I hope you have not taught your kids to treat others in that way.

      2. Racism is NOT a right of passage. Racism and other hate crimes are not casual bullying. Either way, if we don’t have standards that are higher than this, we’ll continue to regress as a society.

      3. Battling through adversity and constantly being tormented everyday are two different things. What Dominic is going through is horrible and no one should have to endure this type of cruelty. I hope the school gets its act together and actually does something to stop the on going bullying that is still going on even after Dominic has switched schools because of the severity of “kids just being kids”. Ridiculous.

      4. Battling adversity and being tormented everyday are two different things. What is happening to Dominic is horrible and no child should have to endure that. The school needs to get it together. Dominic can’t even escape the bullying even when he has switched schools because of it. “Kids will be kids” is outdated and the bullying taking place should have been handled the second this kid’s parents reported it first not years later. Give me a break. RIDICULOUS

      5. Meaning mean is not okay. If the everyone treated everyone nicely the world would a 100 times better a place to live. Does it make you feel better to insult someone?

      6. I was bullied in school. An amazing number of bullies went to prison including for pedophilia (another name for an adult bully). Look at the police log and number of assaults and other crimes.

        How could name calling make anyone feel better? Or beating someone who weighs 50+ lbs less then they are?

  3. I attendef THS some 50 years ago when racial discrimination was prevalent but not at the school. We had students of all races there yet no issues as I can remember. I am appalled at the attitude of the school authorities. An assembly could be called and the children lectured, or sensitivity training for the kids could and should be conducted. It is heart breaking to hear of my alma mater not handling this issue and I consider it hardens that this child and his family being emotionally tortured.

  4. Good for this father. My son was also bullied at this school not for racism but just plain bullying. I was told by administration to have him quit school. They didn’t want to deal with it. That same year there were others that left for the same reason.

  5. I’m curious what MIAA and the refs have to say about the racial slurs throughout the game. My daughter plays soccer and I was under the impression the rules are pretty strict. This is a disgrace to the sport, the community, this bo and his family. Shame on school officials as well as referees and MIAA if nothing is done about it

  6. Good for them, it is about time someone took a stand against that school. My son had a lot of problems at that school, and in a meeting with Mr. Lucas where I was present, he told my son that high school isn’t for everyone, and encouraged him to drop out. They are not qualified to be leading the school. Tantasqua only wants to cater to students who excel, and avoid dealing with problems whenever possible.

  7. Racism isn’t casual bullying. It’s a hate crime. That needs to be said out loud. And racism definitely isn’t a right of passage. Let’s aim a little higher, America.

  8. How the hell did Mr. Lucas become principal? Tgat guy was one of the most useless teachers there when I attended. He spent more time caring about his fantasy leagues than he did actually care to teach us anything.

  9. Cooper LaMountain.
    This that is happening nowadays just like in this article is something on a totally different level and can in NO way be compared to the child bullying of long ago. If you cant see that then there is a very good example of what’s wrong with today’s society of down playing serious issues.

  10. I was for the smallest boy in my class and was bullied.. Some teachers and principals did nothing and encouraged this behavior. It took me 10 years after high school to go to college. Got a degree, started making some real money. Have my name on a patent.
    A number of the bullies ended up in prison. Allowing them to bully early in life did not teach them anything, and we have to support them for their time in prison.
    About four years ago a new employee said a racial epitaph; myself and another employee notified the owner; the employee was terminated immediately.

  11. I am glad this was brought to the surface. Mr. Lucas should be forced to resign as well as the Athletic Director. Mr Lucas wasn’t a good teacher and is even a worse principle. The school committee should remove them immediately. The poor student being treated that way is not acceptable.

  12. My son plays soccer at Quaboag, and he confirms this story is true. Tantasqua is a much bigger school, losing a game to Tantasqua is not usual, but taunting is poor sportsmanship. Racist comments are way out of line. Our Quaboag boys are a tough bunch, and they stick together. We’re proud to have Dominic on our team. He’s a fighter, and a winner, and a all around good kid. Go Cougars! Warriors suck!

  13. Kudos to this man!! If parents did what this father did with protesting and using signs that show names..names of grown ups in our school system tha
    t turn their cheeks the other way! I believe bullying has an underlying reason, maybe a bad home life, parents that are bullies, low self esteem. U live in Charlton and we had the only black family living here going to our schools back in the 60’s. No one made fun of them, they were accepted as the same as whites. They were good people. Somewhere along the line kids started to learn hate! Parents need to reprimand their kids and teach them bullying is not humane!

  14. I sat behind a couple Tantasqua parents at a basketball game years ago. The star center was being guarded by a black player from the opposing school. I overheard the female parent in front of me say “I wonder how Vayda feels with that monkey all over him?” She was the mother of a football player whose head coach was black. I can’t imagine what was said about that coach at that families dinner table.

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