Alleged racist incident in Great Barrington not a criminal offense, police say


GREAT BARRINGTON — An alleged racist incident at Monument Mountain Regional High School did not amount to criminal wrongdoing, according to Great Barrington Police.

Nonetheless, Police Chief William Walsh said in a press release issued Wednesday, the student's remarks were an affront to the community.

"Though the law did not determine this incident to be criminal in nature," he said, "the remarks and language used during this incident are reprehensible."

The accused student has called the accusations "a pack of lies," according to a report in local newspaper the Berkshire Record. Neither student has been publicly identified.

The Sept. 26 verbal altercation stemmed from a protest by a varsity football player who had "taken a knee" during the national anthem days earlier at an away game in Athol. In response, a white student allegedly threatened to "lynch" the player, who is black, and "use him for target practice."

Taking a knee has become a popular form of resistance to the killings of black men across the country by police officers. It began in August when a San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback refused to stand for the anthem, and has since spread across the National Football League and into high schools and colleges.

After consulting with federal officials, police determined the student's remarks did not rise to the threshold of a hate crime, which would be a prosecutable offense. The case is now closed.

The school district conducted its own investigation and took disciplinary action against the accused student. That action has not been disclosed.

Walsh said he hopes the community can learn from the incident.

"We encourage everyone in the community to have frank and honest discussions," he said in the statement. "We must be more mindful of the language used when we speak to one another."


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