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.
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.”
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.