By James Eng, msnbc.com
Should schools punish students who tweeted racist remarks after a black pro hockey player scored the winning goal to knock the Boston Bruins out of the NHL playoffs?
Administrators at high schools and colleges in New England are wrestling with that question, straddling a fine line between free speech and socially incorrect remarks that shame the school.
Hordes of angry hockey fans – presumably Boston Bruins fans -- unleashed a barrage of racist rants on Twitter and other social-networking sites after the Washington Capitals beat the defending champion Bruins a week ago Wednesday on an overtime goal by Joel Ward, the Capitals’ 31-year-old left wing. Ward is one of just a handful of black players in the NHL.
According to local media reports, several students at high schools in Gloucester and Danvers in Massachusetts, the Cumberland, R.I., School District, and Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire were among the tweeters.
Ward brushed off the denigrating comments. “It's a few people that just made a couple of terrible comments, and what can you do? I know what I signed up for. I'm a black guy playing a predominantly white sport. It's just going to come with the territory,” he told reporters last week.
Racist tweets that have since been taken down were traced to at least five Gloucester High School students, including at least three student-athletes, The Gloucester Daily Times reported.
Gloucester School District Superintendent Richard Safier, in a statement issued to the local newspaper two days after the game, said the district is “conducting a full investigation and will consider whether disciplinary action is warranted, and whether the schools have jurisdiction.
"Second, we will implement a strong educational component that looks at the social, moral, and legal aspects of such remarks," he added.