Parent: Camp investigation a ‘witch hunt’

The Chilmark select board is scheduled to discuss a report issued by the Community Center camp on Wednesday. -Rich Saltzberg

The father of one of the white boys accused of applying a strap around the neck of a Black boy at the Chilmark Community Center camp says racism wasn’t a factor in the incident.

The parent spoke with The Times on the condition of anonymity in order to protect the privacy of his 8-year-old son. His comments come after the Chilmark Community Affairs Council (CTAC) issued its report on the incident, which concluded there was no overt racism involved.

The parent said his son was asked not to return to the camp, which is run by the Chilmark Community Affairs Council, and believed that the same was true for the other accused child. He said his son “was not mindful of another camper’s feelings and safety,” and has been dealt with accordingly by his parents. 

The idea that racism was behind the incident came “entirely” from adult minds, that it represented “moral cowardice disguised as moral fervor,” and that it was untrue, the parent said. “This is a witch hunt. It should embarrass everybody who participated in it. Nobody in camp saw any evidence of the kind of motivation that’s been attributed to my family and my child.”

The parent didn’t see merit in blaming camp counselors for what happened. “I am not going to lay this at the feet of 17-year-old counselors,” the parent said. “Kids misbehave at every camp — sometimes. What made this incident one of public attention and vilification had nothing to do with those 17-year-old counselors. It had nothing to do with the camp staff being insufficiently attentive. What it had to do with was a witch hunt and a campaign of bullying by adults who saw absolutely fictitious racial motivation.”  

The parent was critical of the CTAC, of the select board, and of townspeople: “These are people who, seeing a witch hunt in their town, felt that they needed to be at the head of it. I don’t know whether that is because they are so excited at the opportunity to spread falsehood, or if they are fearful that they themselves are going to be accused of racism if they don’t jump to the head of this witch hunt.”

The father took issue with the involvement of the police. “I am appalled that relatives of the child would have gone to the police,” he said, “apparently seeking a prosecution of 8- and 9-year-olds over an incident like this.”

Despite accusations his son exhibited bullying, he said, his son and family had become the subject of bullying. “Some of the people involved in this seem to think that we will be so shamed and so frightened by the specter of further accusation and innuendo that we will keep our mouths shut and we will simply let it continue with no response,” the parent said. “That is how cowards and bullies think … And that is not how we think in my family.”

The Times has been unable to reach a parent of the other child accused in the incident. 

The Chilmark select board is scheduled to meet about the camp’s report at 4:30 pm Wednesday. The report is the only item on the agenda.


  1. While I doubt that this incident was racist at it’s core, I do think that it warranted a second look and an investigation.
    The anonymous parent labeling the investigation as a “witch hunt”, and asserting that anyone involved should be embarrassed , while saying he and his son are the one’s actually being bullied and that the whole thing is “fictitious” (IE; fake,) is a rather interesting choice of words.

  2. I happen to know the black child involved. This is no “witch hunt ” to him or his family, and it is not a fake incident. He will be traumatized for a long time and Chilmark will remain engraved in his memory of the place where “it happened”

    • This is the most important comment yet. Thank you, Janet, for humanizing the person who is actually in pain. How ridiculous that such a thing is even necessary, but some are determined to treat this as an abstract political matter or debate. Obviously, it’s not. A real little boy had to experience it and his wellbeing is where the focus belongs. I hope he knows many are concerned for him, though that doesn’t erase what he went through. I wish it could.

  3. The safety of the campers (including emotional safety) should be of paramount concern to everyone involved with the camp. When an incident occurs that jeopardizes the safety of any camper, of course that incident should be investigated. While it is only natural that a father would seek to defend his son, it is also only natural that the people in charge of running the camp would seek to investigate what happened on their watch, and that the parents of the child who was victimized would also seek appropriate accountability.

  4. This article and the tone of the parent in question is super worrisome. No concern, nor sympathy, for the other child, despite the a reference to his own child having been “dealt with accordingly,” no sense that regardless of intent, this was is a totally traumatic, highly symbolic, act for a black child to be subjected to, no sense that despite his assumption that his child would not have a racist thought in his head, that there is a lot of unfortunate thinking that a child can absorb from other sources. Most importantly, though, I just can’t see how this person can think that going on the offensive is an appropriate move here for his family, himself, or his child? Baffling.

  5. I wonder where these white kids got the idea it was ok to “lasso” a black kid.
    Anyone remember this one ?
    Just about 2 years ago.—–
    While the police said this incident was not racially motivated, I have never seen black police officers on horseback leading a white SUSPECT through the streets of a major U.S. city tethered to a rope around their neck.
    And I truly doubt I ever will.
    Can we spell “systemick rasism” ?

  6. Another deplorable editorial decision by The Times. I thought giving voice to the big lie after January 6 was bad (it was). Now The Times is allowing people a platform to anonymously beat their white privilege drum. The lack of perspective and integrity is shocking. If this man’s family are truly the paragons of virtue they claim to be they could sit back and let the record speak for itself, not find a willing partner at The Times to grind their axe in public yet with the benefit of anonymity. For shame!

    • The Times must do a much better job of editing out what some people do not want to hear.
      Does this person wishing to remain silent invalidate his point of view.

      • Let me try to explain. Thee is no valid journalistic reason to grant this person anonymity. Since when is it ethical to grant someone a platform to complain about an incident they were not even a witness to? If the editors want to claim they are “protecting the child” the best way to do this is not publish this at all. This person is free to write a letter to the editor with their name attached to get their point across. To elevate this to the status of a news story is evidence those in charge have some enormous blind spots when it comes to who gets what privileges.

    • Well said, while this incident involves children who probably don’t know the implications of their actions, the response by the father is on par with the entire reason people are angry and this kid will be traumatized. Such privilege to lash out at the victimized family.

  7. To this parent I feel your pain. In this super woke community with their virtual signaling both in real life and online you’ll likely not find any peace. You are not alone. There are many of us who are with you and hoping your family can recover from the racist liberal trolls who project their inner feelings upon any circumstance that could be portrayed as racism. It makes them a very agreeable person to the other woke summer folk hanging out at Chilmark Store or in the aisles of Cronigs.

  8. The defensive tone and the words “witch hunt” tell me everything I need to know about this guy.

  9. After reading the official report, I am not clear on the exact role of the second child accused of wrongdoing. But at least one of those two boys is responsible for a cruel and incredibly dangerous attack on an innocent kid. The outcry isn’t solely due to the race of the parties involved—it also comes back to the sheer seriousness of what happened. Anyone who would downplay that has the agenda.

    This wasn’t shoving. It wasn’t boys playing rough during football. It was abuse and, unless I missed something, the main aggressor never so much as let up. The child had to free himself from the strap, right? How far was his bully going to take this? Is he aware of the physical damage this could’ve caused? To say nothing of the emotional toll. It’s rich to pretend that critical words, even fair ones, compare to what actually happened, but that’s all this is—pretend. Deflection. Others should be embarrassed while you show no compassion for those actually hurting? Get real.

    When someone is factually assaulted, any mention of the incident is mocked as being the product of a “mentality”, yet when those responsible cry and moan about backlash for their uncivilized behavior, it’s somehow… what? Brave? Honesty? Not hardly. This is a prime example of a true victim mentality.

    I have no idea how being concerned about the welfare of a child or questioning the motive of those responsible is akin to “moral cowardice”, but I guess that’s what you get when an adult tries to reframe the indefensible. Just a bunch of pretentious talk jumbled together without substance.

    If this father wanted a platform to share his side, that’s iffy. I think it’s highly insensitive to the actual victim’s family, but at least it’s easy to see through the bluster. That he was able to speak anonymously? There’s the real cowardice.

    I’m going to assume he said witch hunt because lynch mob might put the focus back where it actually belongs.

  10. These are the same people who banned dodgeball and hand out trophies for 13 th place in Horseshoes. They want no competition and would outlaw kids doing dumb things. This was not racism and the father has it right.

    • Andrew– “the same people” ? Really? who are “they” ?

      I went through a vandal stage when I was about 12 and delighted in throwing rocks through windows . I would consider that “doing a dumb thing”.
      But apparently my “freedom” to do that was for some reason “outlawed” .
      There are all sorts of dumb things that kids do that are outlawed.
      Do you suggest that they are free to do whatever they want because they are kids ?

  11. Racial Gaslighting is Exactly what the father is doing. Rather than addressing his bully son and the behavior or even apologize, he has turned it around where is he and his son are the victims. Typical of the white superior attitude. This is what they do. Unfortunately there will be no lessons learned for this particular family because now they are the victims. It’s unfortunate that the Martha’s Vineyard times has given platform to this person. Without really understanding what racial gaslighting is or even pointing it out. It would do you will to educate yourself.

  12. Very disappointing response, to say the least. Your kid did a horrible, violent, bullying thing to another kid. If you want to speak to the community, speak to that. Speak to how you are going to learn from it and how you’re going to teach your son about bullying and racism. Become part of the solution – or perpetuate the problem.

  13. As a teacher of 35 years who has taught Critical Race Theory as early as the 1990s and a proud liberal, I am less concerned by the incident than by the “Woke” mob response. THESE ARE KIDS, not “racists.” 8 and 9-years olds. Kids that age play out all kinds of behavior without knowing the consequences or the implications. The father is correct in that people are projecting their adult attitudes and fears onto young children. Yes, these boys need to be educated about the incident but with kindness and understanding, not shame, guilt or demonizing. Calling the police was unconscionable. There is no difference traumatizing these two boys than them traumatizing the other boy. All three are children and should be respected as such. Please get a grip.

    • Thank you for this comment. This incident, and the recent event in OB concerning the carding/”profiling” of a woman of color, highlight the need to continue the discussion of racial inequality and Critical Race Theory, amongst ourselves as adults, and with our children. But the rush to brand each and every interaction as racist really just serves to cheapen the value of the discussion. We should all be allowed to both raise the question as to whether racism is at play AS WELL AS to consider the impulsivity and carelessness that one might expect. from an 8 or 9 year old child.
      This was an awful event, no doubt. It offers the opportunity to continue the discussion with our children as to the unacceptability of racism, AS WELL AS bullying, and violent “horseplay”. But none of us can decipher the actual motivation of an impulsive 8 year old child’s actions. The rush to brand a child “racist” is more harmful than a more nuanced and thoughtful consideration of how to make the event a teachable moment.

  14. Seeing that the town is inhabited by mostly privileged white people, are they looking for sacrificial lambs to assuage their own white guilt? If so, they have no right to destroy the lives of two boys in order to protect another. I agree that the three families should get together and talk it through. And keep the lawyers with their own agendas out of it.

    • A child who has been violently attacked is absolutely entitled to protection. What exactly is being done to his attackers that compares to the mistreatment he received at their hands? Nothing. They were told not to return to camp? They received some public words of criticism over appalling behavior? That’s to be expected. They’re not being “destroyed”.

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