A newly released report details the circumstances at the Chilmark Community Center summer camp last month, when a young black camper was the brunt of an incident involving two white boys.

According to the unsigned report by the Chilmark town affairs council, the investigation set out to determine whether the incident was racially motivated.

While calling the incident “incredibly disturbing,” the report found no clear evidence of racism.

“The primary question that this report seeks to consider is whether race played a role in the incident,” the report says in part. “Based on the interviews we have conducted and information we have collected, we have not found any evidence of overt racial motivation for the behavior of the eight and nine-year-old boys that day.”

Dated August 25, the report was posted by the town affairs council on its website and addressed to the Chilmark select board, which has publicly discussed the incident and has been monitoring the investigation.

No author of the report is identified, nor does it state who led the investigation and interviews.

But after the incident, town affairs council president Jeff Herman issued a public apology and said an investigation would begin.

The report describes in detail the events that took place on the morning of July 29 when two young boys, who are white, placed a tent strap around the neck of a third boy, who is black. The boys are aged eight and nine. A fourth boy was also a witness to the incident, but there were no adult witnesses, according to the report.

“No staff members witnessed the incident,” the report says.

No names are used in the report, which also describes in detail the long history of the summer camp program, the specialized structure for camp this summer during Covid, the discipline policy and training and background of staff members.

The three boys directly involved in the incident were part of the same group in the camp, which was held outdoors beneath tents and divided into sub-groups of about 12 children for health and safety reasons. The incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. during a snack period. The counselors in charge of the group were two high school students, who were under the supervision of directors with backgrounds in early childhood education.

The Community Center executive director was already on a voluntary leave of absence at the time of the incident, the report said, with an unnamed acting director in charge.

According to the narrative in the report:

“The two counselors responsible . . . were seated at a table under their tent. Our understanding is that Camper A, the black child, was by himself playing with a tent strap at one of the posts of the adjacent tent. Campers X, Y and Z were walking and talking together, but Camper X stopped at one of the tables and the other two continued on without him. Camper Y and Camper Z approached Camper A and joined him in playing with the strap. At some point, Camper Y took the strap and used it to tie up Camper A, wrapping it around his neck and around the tent pole. Camper A resisted, saying ‘no’ and/or ‘stop,’ but Camper Y continued. Camper Y was holding one end of the strap, Camper Z was standing there watching, but Camper A was able to break free. The entire incident happened quickly.”

The report also describes in detail the group dynamics prior to the incident, and the awareness among counselors and directors of those dynamics, in particular with one of the boys, who had “acted out” on occasion.

And while the report found no overt racism, it underscored the serious nature of the incident.

“The act itself and the races of the three boys involved are significant, the report concludes. “A strap around the neck of a black child, one of the few children of color in the program, must raise the inevitable question of whether racism was involved in the incident. We cannot know what was in the minds of the children involved in this incident, and at this time it is not possible to determine conclusively whether underlying societal forces, including systemic racism and/or implicit bias, had an influence on this incident.”

The report also says the incident has sparked self examination by the town affairs council about its Community Center programs, their diversity and inclusiveness.

“In designing next steps, the town affairs council is deeply committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in our program and to taking appropriate action to implement those goals and to prevent an incident like this one from happening again,” the report concludes.

As for the next steps, the report said the town affairs council has formed a subcommittee “to examine all levels of the Community Center’s operations, with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. The subcommittee will seek advice from people of color who are experts in building diverse and inclusive organizations, as well as from other stakeholders in Chilmark and on the Island.”

Read the entire report here.