Bacon Academy addresses alleged racial remarks by coach about New London team

Taylor Hartz, The Day, New London, Conn.
·3 min read

Apr. 8—Bacon Academy in Colchester is addressing racial comments allegedly made by girls basketball coach John Shea about members of the New London High School basketball team during a game last month.

According to a letter sent to parents of basketball players on March 12, Shea allegedly made racially charged comments about basketball players from New London to players on his own team while they were huddled up during halftime at a game against New London on March 9.

The comments "included a reference to the race of the opposing team," according to the letter sent by Colchester Superintendent Jeffrey Burt and Bacon Academy Principal Matthew Peel.

The comments were reported on March 11 to Colchester Public Schools Athletic Director Kevin Burke, who immediately reported the comments to the principal. Peel and Burke then interviewed several students and the coach, the letter said.

Administrators sought advice from the National Conference for Community Justice, a Windsor based organization with whom the district had previously partnered for diversity, equity and inclusion training.

The letter said administrators and their partners at NCCJ agreed that the incident provided "a unique opportunity for reflection, training and growth for all involved" and that the district was working on improving all practices related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

The letter also said they were working with NCCJ "to support the growth of Coach Shea's practice" and were approaching the incident as a learning opportunity.

"The race conversation is not one to shy away from, but to welcome and discuss," administrators said in the letter. The letter did not disclose exactly what the racial comments were.

Superintendent of New London Public Schools Cynthia Ritchie said in a statement Thursday that players on the New London High School basketball team did not hear any racial comments that were made about their team and that students and staff weren't aware of the issue until it was brought to their attention by people in the Colchester schools community.

She said the New London school district "appreciates the immediate follow up of Colchester Public Schools to not tolerate any racist comments."

"It is commendable that their own students and community members brought these concerns forward to their administration, as our team did not hear them," said Ritchie. "Racism will continue to diminish as people rise and insist on mutual respect, kindness, and multiple role models across communities."

Phil Orbe, athletic director for New London Public Schools, and New London High School girls basketball coach Tammy Millsaps both declined to comment on the incident.

The Colchester Superintendent said last week that the district hosted a session with NCCJ for some students, primarily members of the girls' basketball team, following the incident.

"We take every issue seriously and we always want to ensure the safety of our students," said Burt.

Burt also said that the school district started a diversity, equity and inclusion committee last summer and began working with the NCCJ at the start of this school year. The district is hoping to have diversity training for all staff within the next few years.

Athletic Director Burke and Peel, principal of Bacon Academy, deferred to Burt for comments on the incident.

John Holt, spokesperson for the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, declined to comment and said the CIAC has not been at all involved with the incident.

Shea did not return requests for comment.

t.hartz@theday.com