Saturday, January 25, 2020
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Lake Zurich coaches resign over hazing charges

Several teachers and coaches at a high school in Chicago’s northern suburbs resigned last month following hazing allegations that surfaced during the football season last fall and led to a police investigation into charges of sexual assault, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Cold haze in Finland (Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho / Flickr CC)

A probe by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is also being conducted, according to the news report, but no criminal charges were filed. In addition, many of the students involved are minors. However, an attorney representing hazing victims at Lake Zurich High School said a tradition of abusive hazing goes back 20 years or more and was kept out of public view by “Lord of the Flies-type” tactics.

Students on the football team “were brutally mocked, teased, humiliated, embarrassed and emotionally harmed, all in the name of team bonding,” Antonio Romanucci, a Chicago attorney who is representing two of the players from the school’s 2016 football team, was quoted as saying at a news conference on February 1.

Resignations have been tendered to the District 95 school board by the school’s athletic director, Rolando Vazquez; the head football coach, David Proffitt; and an assistant football coach, Chad Beaver. In addition, several policy changes have gone into effect, the Tribune reported.

Hazing prevention programs for the football team and other students have begun, according to district officials, including tighter locker room supervision and no access without adults present. Further measures may include identifying areas outside locker rooms where unsupervised students might be victimized, creating a tip line for reporting bad behavior, and examining whether the cultures of extracurricular activities might lead to hazing.

“We now have a blueprint for what we need to do on a continuous basis … to have a preventive stance on hazing or other inappropriate behaviors,” District 95 Superintendent Kaine Osburn was quoted as saying. “I don’t want people to think this goes in the rear-view mirror. We’ve learned lessons from this, and however difficult it was, it will have meaning only if we act in a proactive way going forward.”

Letter from Mr Osburn to parents, dated Jan. 26

At its regular meeting tonight, I shared with the Board of Education the results of the investigation by the law firm Hodges, Loizzi, Eisenhammer, Rodick, & Kohn into the fall incident in our football program. This report’s recommendations will guide the high school and District as we institute changes to improve all of our extra-curricular programs. A link to the report is available below.

Over the past two months, we have taken a number of new steps to foster a safe, positive culture in the football program and athletics going forward. The attached report does not address measures already taken, so I am restating them here:

  • We have instituted positive decision-making and hazing prevention education programs led by national expert Elliot Hopkins for varsity football players and parents;
  • Mr. Hopkins will provide more programming in the spring for staff, students, and parents;
  • A new hazing prevention presentation was provided at winter pledge card signing and will be at each pledge presentation going forward. You can see it on the high school athletics website;
  • Athletic locker rooms are physically locked when an adult is not present to supervise;
  • A supervision schedule is in place that identifies the coach assigned to supervise the locker-room at any given time after school, before and after practice;
  • Additional security personnel have been hired and shifts scheduled in such a way to ensure we have an adult available for supervision at the times needed.

In addition to what is identified above, the administration will develop specific action plans to implement the 13 recommendations identified in the report. We are confident that these actions, implemented with thoughtful consideration, will result in the culture and environment that we strive for on behalf of our students at Lake Zurich High School and at all of our District 95 schools. We will also look to incorporate input from students, staff, and parents.

The last twelve weeks have been challenging for many students and others in our community. My administration has done its best to balance the safety and rights of our students and staff with the need to thoroughly examine how we can foster a culture and climate that prevents hazing and other unhealthy behaviors, all while attempting to communicate in a transparent manner. I accept responsibility for any failures in this regard, but rest assured my full and earnest dedication is and always will be to the safety of our students and the knowledge that we must do what is necessary to build a healthy foundation for growth.

We are committed to providing high quality extra-curricular and athletic experiences for all of our students, including a safe, healthy, and positive culture. We will work tirelessly to this end.

He has his work cut out for him. A lawsuit filed on behalf of some victims alleges that some players urinated on other members of the team, slapped them in the face with their genitals, and forced teammates to perform oral sex on each other. Intended victims each week were said to be humiliated by having their names written on a whiteboard to announce the upcoming hazing.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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