Principals: NCAA-style bracket ranking Fairfield female students posted on Instagram

Photo of Katrina Koerting

FAIRFIELD — School officials said they are investigating a March Madness-style tournament bracket that ranked female high school students.

The bracket was posted on Instagram and appears to include only freshmen from Fairfield Warde and Ludlowe high schools and encouraged others to vote for one name in each pairing, officials said.

“As a school system, this behavior will not be tolerated,” said Andrea Clark, the district’s spokeswoman. “The investigation of this case will continue, and we will hold all students accountable.”

Some students believed to be the originators have been identified, according to a joint statement the high school principals sent to families on Tuesday.

In the letter, principals Greg Hatzis, of Fairfield Ludlowe, and Paul Cavana, of Fairfield Warde, called the bracket “disparaging” to all women.

“We strongly condemn this behavior, which is damaging and disparaging to all young women in the freshmen classes of both schools, but also to all Fairfield students and indeed, all women,” the principals wrote. “It is discouraging that not only did someone create this post, but other students ‘liked’ it, and this will be addressed.”

Clark said action will begin with virtual school assemblies.

The letter encouraged families to speak to their children about this situation and to warn them about the potential long-term ramifications of social media posts.

“Our high schools are deeply committed to promoting respect for all students,” Hatzis and Cavana wrote. “Any act that negatively targets a group based on gender, race, nationality, religion, sexual-orientation, learning difference, or any other distinguishing characteristic will not be tolerated.”

The schools are unable to have the account removed or disabled — which can only be done by the account holder — but Hatzis and Cavana said they will work with the families of those responsible to remove the posts.

The principals said school staff from both schools launched an investigation to identify those responsible when they learned of the post.

Some students have already been identified, but officials now believe another person created the voting mechanism for the bracket. Anyone with information is asked to submit a TIPS report. People can remain anonymous, though Hatzis and Cavana said it’s helpful if they provide their contact information so officials can follow up with them.

“We want to commend all the students and community members who served as allies in this circumstance and reported the behavior,” the principals wrote.

They also reminded families “not all the facts have come to light” and asked them to allow school staff to complete the investigation.

“The students involved will be held accountable for their inappropriate actions,” the principals wrote. “We share the disgust expressed by students, parents, and staff from both schools about this act.”

The principals said they are committed to a thorough investigation, as well as providing support to any student who “feels victimized or hurt by these actions.”

“As a community, we can bind together to not only address the negative behavior, but also teach the important lessons that come from the unfortunate choices of a few,” Hatzis and Cavana wrote. “The strong reaction to this event underscores the values that we collectively hold as a Fairfield community.”