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Article updated: 2/8/2013 5:36 AM

Second fired Maine West coach in hazing case files appeal

By Madhu Krishnamurthy

Fired Maine West High School freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez has requested a hearing to appeal his dismissal over allegations of hazing among team members, Maine Township High School District 207 spokesman Dave Beery said Thursday.

The district received the request Wednesday. The Illinois State Board of Education must select a hearing officer before a hearing date is set.

"We know that this can stretch out over a matter of months," Beery said. "This entire process can take as long as a year or more."

Rodriguez, a tenured teacher in the applied arts and technology department, was the second Maine West coach to be fired over the hazing scandal. His dismissal in late January came more than a month after the school board fired head boys varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo after accusations surfaced that senior members of the soccer team hazed freshman teammates.

Both men are suspended without pay while the dismissal process is pending, and have been banned from school premises and relieved of coaching duties.

In making its decision, the District 207 school board said both coaches "violated District 207 board of education policy and professional expectations by failing to adequately prevent, recognize, report and punish student hazing."

Divincenzo also has appealed the school board's decision and requested an administrative hearing. Beery said a hearing officer has not yet been selected in that matter.

Three other Maine West coaches have been reassigned with pay. It is unclear whether the district will take further disciplinary action against them.

Two 14-year-old freshman members of the varsity boys soccer team claim they were sexually assaulted inside the school on Sept. 26 as part of a hazing ritual, according to police. Five juveniles subsequently were charged with misdemeanor battery, and a sixth juvenile was charged after police uncovered evidence of another attack they say occurred during a summer soccer camp. The Cook County state's attorney's office is reviewing the charges and has issued subpoenas to District 207 to turn over documents.

Meanwhile, four current and former students are suing the school district, Maine West, the school's principal, Audrey Haugan, and coaches Divincenzo and Rodriguez, claiming the practice of hazing has been going on in the school's soccer and baseball programs since as far back as 2007.

In January, District 207 hired an independent investigator to look into allegations of hazing at Maine West, scrutinize the district's policies, procedures, training and providing follow-up recommendations to the school board. The board also hired a consultant to lead anti-hazing focus groups with students, parents and faculty members at its three high schools.

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