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Crossing the line

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Crossing the line

By Greg Duggan/ gduggan@cnc.com

Friday, September 22, 2006

A hard-fought football battle between Melrose and Malden high schools was marred by post-game events Friday night, when an altercation near the field left two Malden students in the hospital.

Following the game, the Malden cheerleading squad exited through the crowd towards the team bus, according to Pat Ruggiero, Melrose director of health, physical education and athletics. According to police reports, a 17-year-old, male cheerleader from Malden alleged that an unidentified female teen from Melrose began harassing him with homosexual slurs.

When the cheerleader ignored the taunts, a male teen accompanying the female, described as a 17-year-old, white male with a lip piercing and wearing a black hat, allegedly punched the cheerleader in the face and several times in the chest.

The Malden football team, which had been filing onto their bus after departing across Morelli field, jumped off to see what was happening, but the incident did not escalate any further. Ruggiero said that no Melrose football players were involved.

The suspect fled towards Lynn Fells Parkway, according to police reports, leaving the cheerleader with a bloodied lip.

The police report says the altercation was broken up by the Malden football team and Melrose police detail officers.

The cheerleader was taken to Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. Another 17-year-old from Malden began hyperventilating during the incident, and was also transported to the hospital.

Ruggiero said she will have teams and cheerleaders leave across Morelli field in the future to avoid more incidents.

Administrators from both schools conducted an investigation of the incident and had a meeting Wednesday morning to discuss how to proceed. Following the meeting, administrators released the following statement: "It was mutually decided that this is an opportunity for a teachable moment," a press release states. "A diversity rally is being planned for Friday, Sept. 28 to take place concurrently at both schools to speak out against ignorance and promote diversity."

Melrose Superintendent Joe Casey said that five students were interviewed during investigations, and only three or four teens were involved in the actual altercation. He said the students would be disciplined, but no punishment had been determined as of press time Wednesday.

"Neither school feels this rises to the level of being a hate crime," Casey said. "I think what took place was a lot of bad judgment, with a scuffle that followed."

- Malden Observer sports editor Christopher Hurleycontributed to this report.

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