DANVERS — School officials acknowledged Tuesday night they “fell short” in informing the public about the seriousness of alleged racist and homophobic misconduct in the high school boys’ hockey program and promised to do better in the future.

In a joint statement, the Danvers School Committee and Superintendent Lisa Dana said they recognize that the community has been “traumatized” by the allegations and the lack of transparency by officials.

“We regret that our communication to the public, upon the conclusion of the investigations, fell short in terms of emphasizing the seriousness of what occurred and the District’s response, causing concern and dismay regarding a very serious set of of incidents of racism, homophobia, and bullying,” the statement said.

The statement came a day after the School Committee met in executive session to talk about possible disciplinary action against Dana for her handling of the controversy. The committee ended up taking no action, but offered no explanation to the public. The statement reiterated that Dana’s employment status remains unchanged. It said officials could not release the specifics of what was discussed during the executive session.

School officials have come under fire for failing to disclose details of allegations made by a former Danvers High boys varsity hockey player. The player told authorities and news reporters that teammates engaged in racist and sexual misconduct during the 2019-20 season.

The former player said that younger players were forced to strip naked and were inappropriately touched for “Gay Tuesdays.” He also said he was beaten with a sex toy for refusing to shout a racial slur on “Hard-R Fridays,” named for the final ‘r’ in the n-word.

In the statement, the School Committee and Dana said they were caught in a conflict between the public’s desire for transparency and the privacy rights of students and staff. They said they openly discussed the topic at many School Committee meetings, but withheld specific details to protect the students involved. They released only heavily redacted versions of the investigation reports.

The statement said the administration reported the allegations to law enforcement agencies and the Department of Children and Families, conducted an internal investigation, and hired an independent investigator. It said officials could not disclose any “consequential action” that was taken with regard to employees or students.

Police and the district attorney’s office have said they cannot pursue charges because the unnamed hockey player declined to file a criminal complaint.

The hockey coach, Danvers police Sgt. Stephen Baldassare, resigned from the team in July.

“We applaud the young person who courageously came forward to shine a light on what is alleged to have occurred and hope he knows that his actions will lead to change,” the statement Tuesday said.

The statement said that its two new School Committee members, Robin Doherty and Alice Campbell, have added “an eye-opening perspective on the crucial need for transparency and our collective efforts going forward.”

Doherty and Campbell, who were elected to the committee this spring, have criticized Dana and other officials for their handling of the situation.

The School Committee and Dana said they will review policies and programs and seek outside consultation to help them move forward.

“While these issues are being felt in many other communities, we must do better here in Danvers,” the statement said.

Lindall Street resident Keri McGloin, speaking to a reporter earlier on Tuesday, said she was worried that the lack of transparency from the school administration and athletic department will enable the same type of behavior to continue. Their failure to take action, she said, “continues to allow a culture of fear and dismissal to past, current and future victims of racism, sexual assault and homophobic acts.”

Wadsworth Street resident Melanie Skane said she is concerned that no adult has been held accountable. The fact that the School Committee did not take a vote regarding Dana, she said, “is nothing short of disappointing.”

“I was hoping to hear someone apologize for the past events not being handled as properly as they should and a concerted effort to not allow it to happen again,” Skane said, prior to the release of Tuesday’s statement.

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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