December 17, 2017
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Hampden Academy officials investigating lewd fan comment at girls soccer game

By Larry Mahoney, BDN Staff
SAD 22 | BDN
SAD 22 | BDN
Hampden Academy shortly before opening in 2012.

Hampden Academy officials are continuing an investigation to confirm allegations made by Camden Hills High School girls soccer goalie Izzy Lang that she was the victim of a sexually vulgar suggestion made by a Hampden Academy fan during a game at Hampden Academy on Oct. 12.

“I have been playing soccer for 12 years and I’ve never heard anything like that before,” said Lang, who is a junior. “It made me very uncomfortable.

“There were other things that were being said to me that were more obnoxious than anything else but that kind of set me off. It was really awful. It was extremely inappropriate,” said Lang.

An email was sent out by Lang’s parents to Hampden officials and RSU 22 Superintendent of Schools Rick Lyons said all the members of the RSU 22 board of directors received the email and one passed it along to him. Once they learned of the incident, they launched an investigation.

Lyons said he first sent an email to Lang’s father to discuss the situation and her father called him and “mirrored” what had been outlined in the email.

The Department of Education also received the email and informed Lyons that they wanted it to be investigated and informed of the findings.

“We take something like that very seriously,” said Lyons, who has met with athletic director Fred Lower and principal Bill Tracy and told them he wanted a report on the incident completed within two weeks.

“I was looking for confirmation of the sexual harassment,” said Lyons.

Lyons said several people who were at the game were interviewed and the allegations made by Lang have yet to be confirmed.

Lyons emphatically stressed that he isn’t doubting Lang’s allegations, it’s just that the investigation has come up empty so far.

“Three students talked to our principal voluntarily yesterday and they told him they didn’t hear anyone make a statement of that sort,” said Lyons.

He also said Tracy and Lower received a videotape of the game on Thursday that was shot approximately 40 feet from that student section and each of them watched it before telling him the video and audio didn’t pick up the lewd comment.

Lang said she wasn’t surprised that the investigation hasn’t produced results.

“What are those kids going to say? They aren’t going to come forward and admit they did it,” she said.

“It’s very frustrating,” she added.

Camden Hills coach Meredith Messer said she doesn’t doubt her goalkeeper.

“What she dealt with was significant enough for her to say something about it,” said Messer. “The words stayed with her.

“The discouraging part is nobody has given us a concrete ‘yes’ saying this person said it and admitted it,” said Messer.

Lang said the mother of one of her teammates came over to her after the game and told her she was “really sorry I had to deal with that. It was awful.

“She literally sprinted over to me after the game to tell me that,” she said.

Because Camden Hills dominated the game, winning 5-1, the ball was up in Hampden’s end of the field most of the time so Lang wasn’t able to inform the referee or the linesmen about the comment.

Camden Hills athletic director Steve Alex has been working with Lower and said the first-year Hampden Academy AD has been “very proactive” in trying to find out what happened.

“It is very unfortunate it happened,” said Alex. “We jumped on it immediately after we found out about it and we reported it to Hampden.

“Poor sportsmanship is never appropriate,” he said.

He also noted that the Hampden facility is much larger to patrol than the facility they have for their soccer teams.

Lang said she has never received an apology from Hampden officials and said an incident like this would have never happened in Camden.

“Our crowds wouldn’t say anything rude (to an opposing player) and, if they did, our AD would make them leave the field,” said Lang.

Lyons said they will continue to investigate the situation and said they have had a “very well-established” mission statement in place that explains the expected behavior of student-athletes, coaches, parents and fans. They also have a code of conduct statement.

And any incidents like this will not be tolerated, he stressed.

Lyons also said they are reaching out to the Maine Principals’ Association to make sure everyone at the school and statewide knows what standards must be attained pertaining to sportsmanship and behavior at future events.

He said at Wednesday’s board of directors meeting, Karen Hawkes, the chairwoman, indicated that “we would certainly be conscientious about making sure student behavior is appropriate.”

Lang, who helped the Windjammers win their second straight Class A state championship this season, said she won’t let the incident impact her career and hopes it will never happen again.

In a letter addressed to parents earlier this week, Alex, Camden Hills principal Shawn Carlson and superintendent of schools Maria Libby noted that Hampden has “committed to further educate their student body and student athletes about harassment and sportsmanship.

“Make sure our classrooms and athletic fields are safe environments for students is of paramount importance to us. We will continue to do our best to address harassment of any kind wherever and whenever it occurs in our schools and within our programs. We were disheartened that one of our athletes had this unfortunate experience during an otherwise remarkable season.”

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