Education

Referee Who Made Student Wrestler Cut Dreadlocks Banned From District

By Denisa R. Superville — December 27, 2018 1 min read

UPDATED

A New Jersey high school referee who forced a black wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match will no longer oversee matches for students with the Buena Regional School District, according to the New York Daily News.

“He’s done working with our district,” school district superintendent David Cappuccio Jr. told the media of the referee at the center of the incident, Alan Maloney.

A video of the incident—showing a woman cutting off 16-year-old Andrew Johnson’s hair before a Dec. 19 match—went viral late last week and sparked outrage online and on social media.

The New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association has said that the incident was under investigation and that the referee involved will not officiate matches while the investigation was underway.

The school board for the district, which is located in Richland, N.J., and takes students from neighboring Weymouth and Estell Manor as well as Buena Vista Township and Buena Borough, held an emergency meeting on Wednesday night to discuss “personnel matters"—presumably issues related to the incident.

Such discussions are normally held behind closed doors. But that did not stop about 100 people from attending the meeting to show their support for Johnson, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

A lawyer for the family has thanked the public for the outpouring of support, but has supported the district’s coaches, who had argued against cutting Johnson’s hair, and trainer. The attorney, Dominic Speziali, instead laid the blame on the referee, who Speziali said was late to the match and missed the weigh-in, and other administrators who were also at the tournament.

The state Attorney General’s civil rights division is investigating the incident, according to the New York Daily News.

Photo caption: Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson gets his hair cut courtside minutes before his match in Buena, N.J., after a referee told Johnson he would forfeit his bout if he didn’t have his dreadlocks cut off. Johnson went on to win the match after a SNJ Today reporter tweeted video if the incident, the state’s Interscholastic Athletic Association says they are recommending the referee not be assigned to any event until the matter has been reviewed more thoroughly. --Michael Frankel/SNJTODAY.COM viavAP

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.