Racist tweets about Joel Ward lead to student punishment in New England

Joel Ward's Game 7 overtime game-winning goal for the Washington Capitals against the Boston Bruins was a joyous moment for the NHL veteran — and one that was quickly overshadowed by explicit and racist comments on social media that sparked condemnation and a debate on race.

One of the most baffling aspects of that deplorable behavior: How many Twitter users dropped racial slurs next to their real names and photographs.

Easily traceable, not easily erasable. Would there be repercussions?

In Gloucester High School, the answer is yes.

Superintendent of Schools Richard Safier announced that students who tweeted racist comments about Ward have been handed "significant suspensions from athletic programs and other sanctions."

The punishment will include loss of participatory rights for school sports for a "considerable" amount of time, as well as being stripped of leadership positions in any extracurricular activities.

From the Gloucester Times:

The district began investigating the incident last week; sources close to the probe have said that the schools identified five students as being involved in the postings. All of the racist comments, which included use of the "N word" and other derogatory remarks targeting blacks, were posted on Twitter.com, which, unlike text messaging, is not sent to private phones or other devices, but publicly available for view around the world. Anyone clicking on at least some of the students' "tweets" was able to easily identify they were from Gloucester.

"I want to state how profoundly disturbing such remarks area att any time and in any context," Safier said. "The racial epithets expressed were compounded by their publication on a national sports website. We take this issue seriously. Such misconduct contradicts the values and standards of Gloucester High School and the Gloucester Public Schools as a whole."

There's been other fallout as well. A 17-year-old who attends St. John's Prep in Danvers was fired by the sandwich shop he worked for after tweeting "You guys let the [N-word] score?" following the Ward goal.

Check out MSNBC.com blogger James Eng's roundup of other alleged Ward goal tweeters who are in hot water, as well as the legal ramifications for any school or employer taking action against them.

s/t Forbes, via reader Wayne Brown.