The entire student body of a Pennsylvania junior-senior high school has been barred from attending classmates’ hockey games after some students chanted sexually explicit vulgarities at a visiting team’s goalie — the team’s only female player.
During a hockey game last week between the Armstrong River Hawks and the Mars Fighting Planets, a number of Armstrong Junior-Senior High School students began chanting “inappropriate and abusive language” at the Mars goalie, according to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League. On Thursday, the league announced that Armstrong students would be prohibited from attending games for the remainder of the season, including during the playoffs.
“Providing a safe environment for member associations and players to participate in interscholastic hockey will always be the P.I.H.L.’s primary purpose,” the league said in a statement. “Any actions by spectators that jeopardize or infringe upon the ability of players to participate in interscholastic hockey in a safe environment will not be tolerated.”
The ban, which originally applied to students in grades nine through 12, was later extended to include seventh and eighth graders, the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners, which oversees the facility where the game was played, confirmed in a statement on Thursday.
Kirk Lorigan, an Armstrong high school principal, told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the students who led the chant had been subjected to “appropriate school discipline,” but he did not specify exactly what actions were taken.
Neither Mr. Lorigan nor Mike Cominos, another principal at Armstrong, which is in Kittanning, Pa., could immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
On Friday, the board of directors for the Mars Hockey Club called the incident “completely unacceptable.”
“We are hopeful that the attention this incident has drawn will shed light on the issues our female athletes face which must not be tolerated and that this attention will help with eliminating this type of conduct from our sport,” the board said in a statement. The board declined to disclose the goalie’s identity to protect her safety.
In addition to barring Armstrong students from attending games, the league also required the school to provide a faculty member or administrator to attend every home and away game in order to monitor and report any “inappropriate” behavior.
In Western Pennsylvania, high school hockey is not school-sponsored but a club sport, run by parents and boosters at each school. Armstrong is the only school in the league currently required to have a faculty member in attendance.
The Armstrong River Hawks were also placed on disciplinary probation for the rest of the season. Siblings of varsity Armstrong hockey players can go to games if they sit with a parent or a guardian.
The Armstrong Area School District issued a formal apology to the Mars Area School District and said it would be apologizing to the goalie as well, according to Mark Gross, the Mars district superintendent. According to the Mars varsity and junior varsity rosters, the same goalie plays on both teams.
“We are confident that the Armstrong Area School District’s efforts will lead to appropriate discipline for those involved while also minimizing the potential for future incidents,” Dr. Gross added.
The controversy has inspired opinion articles in local newspapers and drawn attention from professional hockey players.
Meghan Duggan, an Olympic gold medalist, tweeted in support of the goalie. “Every time you take the ice, women & girls all over the hockey community are proud of YOU!” she wrote. “You represent so much more than the hateful words that were directed toward you. I stand with you.”
“To all the girls & women who have watched this video & thought there is not a place for you in this sport — there is,” Kendall Coyne Schofield, another Olympic gold medalist, said in a tweet. “To all of those chanting/watching — there is not.”