In North Attleboro, game taunts lead to investigation

Originally published for The Sun Chronicle on April 4, 2017.

NORTH ATTLEBORO — The school superintendent’s office is investigating reports that a North Attleboro High School football and track coach orchestrated taunts targeting an Attleboro High School girls’ basketball player during a game played in February.

Jason Feid has been accused of organizing an effort to taunt Attleboro senior Julia Strachan during a Feb. 20 game at Attleboro High School. North Attleboro students at the game targeted the 18-year-old with chants of “traitor” every time she touched the ball, according to a DoubleACS video of the game — a total of 14 times in the second half.

Strachan, who lives in North Attleboro, transferred to Attleboro High at the beginning of her junior year after her father, Michael Strachan, took a football coaching job at AHS.

The Sun Chronicle learned of the investigation through an anonymous source who said, as a North Attleboro resident, she was concerned that parents were being kept in the dark about the situation.

North Attleboro Superintendent Scott Holcomb said he could not confirm which students or employees were involved in the case pending the ongoing investigation, but did say school officials are looking into the alleged incident at the request of Michael Strachan.

When approached by The Sun Chronicle, Strachan was initially reluctant to speak pending the investigation, but said his only concern is figuring out what happened to warrant the taunts against his daughter.

Strachan said he was upset to see his daughter targeted during the game, but those feelings turned to concern when a North Attleboro student told him Feid had allegedly sent a text to students encouraging the taunting.

Strachan said there was only one isolated chant made in the first half of the game — when Julia had possession of the ball nine times — but after halftime, the taunting became a more concerted effort.

In footage from the game reviewed by The Sun Chronicle, Feid can be seen pulling out his phone during halftime, typing or looking at something on it, glancing across the bleachers to the student section and gesturing for students to check their phones.

Feid is the freshmen football and high school and middle school spring track coach for North Attleboro and a physical education teacher at the middle school.

“In looking at the film, I have a lot of questions about what occurred during halftime,” Strachan said. “Something happened and we’re just trying to figure out what. These are pieces of the puzzle that I’ve received — but the truth hasn’t come out yet. I don’t feel like the investigation is over.”

Jim Jones of DoubleACS said film of the game has not been shown to the public at the request of the Attleboro School Department because of the pending complaint by Strachan. He said the recording has been turned over to the school department. Jones said the request was initiated by AHS principal Bill Runey.

Runey said he made the request in order to facilitate North Attleboro’s inquiry into the complaint.

“In order to allow North Attleboro to look into the situation involving the February 20 girls basketball game, I asked DoubleACS to hold on to the footage,” he told The Sun Chronicle in an email.

“It was an unfortunate situation and North Attleboro asked us to help them get the video. We value our relationship with North so it was just a part of trying to put both schools in a position to learn from the experience.”

In a letter sent to The Sun Chronicle by his lawyer, Feid said he was approached by Michael Strachan at the end of the game and that Strachan was upset that Feid, as a faculty member and coach in the North Attleboro school system, hadn’t tried to stop the chants.

Feid said he was at the game as a parent, supporting his daughter, Julia Feid, who plays on the North Attleboro girls’ team.

Feid said administration from Attleboro did not step up to quiet the chants either.

He said he was later cleared in investigations by the North Attleboro High School administration and North Attleboro Assistant Superintendent Lori McEwen, but said Strachan has appealed the decision to Holcomb’s office with threat of a civil lawsuit if the matter is not resolved.

“As a result of the pending appeal and the parent’s threat of civil litigation, the accused will have no further comment on the matter,” the letter said. “The accused has voluntarily and willingly participated in the investigation and has been exonerated through the results of those investigations. This case should not and will not be tried through the media given the threats of civil litigation against him.”

Strachan said he is not on a witch hunt, but simply wants to know the truth. Six weeks later, he is frustrated with the lack of answers.

“I respect North Attleboro — I think it has teachers, coaches and administration that do a great job. I can understand rivalry, but this time it went beyond that,” he said. “This became a targeted event. I’m just trying to find the truth. I just want to know and figure out what happened to my daughter. There is no place in sports for this.”

The event also drew criticism from local media, including Sun Chronicle sports editor Mark Farinella and WARA Radio host Paul Healey, who said the taunts went outside the bounds of rivalry and into an environment of poor sportsmanship.

The Feb. 20 game was the last girls’ basketball game of the season between rivals Attleboro and North Attleboro.

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