Victim speaks publicly about being hazed at Maine West
A former Maine West High School soccer player who says he was sodomized as part of a hazing ritual by members of the varsity soccer team spoke publicly for the first time Thursday about the attack.
The victim, who was a 14-year-old freshman at the time the hazing occurred on campus in the fall of 2007, is among four plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit against Maine Township High School District 207, Maine West High School's administration, coaches and staff for not reporting the hazing to authorities or adequately punishing the perpetrators.
The victim, who chose to remain anonymous in a television interview Thursday, said he still lies awake at night. He said older players "took me down, tackled me, ripped my pants down, ripped, tore my boxers."
The victim says he was hazed a second time after which he quit the soccer team but remained silent about being attacked. He claims coaches were aware of the practice of hazing.
"I'd see my coach wink, either before or after," the victim said in the television interview. "Coach was definitely in on it. It happened to me, and I don't want it to happen to anybody else."
The District 207 school board last month voted to dismiss head boys varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo. He can appeal the decision, a process that could take up to a year. In the meantime, he is suspended without pay.
Divincenzo and freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez were banned from school premises and relieved of coaching duties while officials investigated reports of hazing last September. The coaches have not commented on the allegations.
District 207 released a statement saying the individual acknowledged that he never reported the incident to any school authority. And the statement pointed out that the district immediately notified authorities when it learned of allegations by two 14-year-old freshman members of the varsity boys soccer team that they were sexually assaulted inside the school on Sept. 26 as part of a hazing ritual.
Five juveniles were subsequently charged with misdemeanor battery, and a sixth juvenile was charged after police uncovered evidence of another attack that they say occurred during a summer soccer camp.
District 207 officials have said the board will be considering disciplinary action against other Maine West staff members. And they have outlined a series of steps they will be taking to prevent hazing, including hiring an attorney to conduct an independent investigation and setting up a hotline for students to use to report and seek help on issues including hazing.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the two boys in the September case, as well as a 2007 freshman member of the varsity soccer team and a 2008 freshman baseball player.
During Thursday's news conference, plaintiffs' attorney Antonio Romanucci said Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan should be held accountable.
"We know now that the principal was aware of activities going on as far back as 2008. And we know that principal didn't report and didn't do enough to stop this activity happening, that it had to surface again in 2012," he said.
A District 207 spokesman declined to respond specifically to Romanucci's comments. Haugan couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
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