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updated: 8/28/2013 9:40 AM

Fifth Maine West student says he was a hazing victim

Maine West student says he was assaulted by soccer players

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  • Antonio Romanucci describes the circumstances behind the latest hazing lawsuit, which says a 16-year-old soccer player was assaulted by seniors on the varsity team last fall at Maine West High School in Des Plaines. He spoke at a news conference in Chicago.

       Antonio Romanucci describes the circumstances behind the latest hazing lawsuit, which says a 16-year-old soccer player was assaulted by seniors on the varsity team last fall at Maine West High School in Des Plaines. He spoke at a news conference in Chicago.
    Madhu Krishnamurthy | Staff Photographer

  • Maine West High School is located at 1755 S. Wolf Road in Des Plaines.

      Maine West High School is located at 1755 S. Wolf Road in Des Plaines.
    COURTESY OF ABC 7

 
 

A fifth teenager has come forward saying he was sexually assaulted during a hazing ritual at Maine West High School in Des Plaines last fall.

Last September, two 14-year-old freshmen on the varsity boys soccer team first said they had been sexually assaulted by seniors at the Des Plaines school as part of a hazing ritual.

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The latest student to come forward is now 16 years old and was similarly assaulted last September during soccer practice under the bleachers area of the football field, plaintiffs' attorney Antonio Romanucci said Tuesday at a news conference in Chicago.

His firm filed a second lawsuit Monday against Maine Township High School District 207, Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan, and fired varsity soccer coaches Michael Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez. The first suit, filed last year, is on behalf of four students.

The circumstances cited in this latest complaint are similar to those in the earlier lawsuit and the criminal case against former head soccer coach Divincenzo, who is charged with misdemeanor hazing, battery and failure to report abuse.

The family did not want to be present at Tuesday's news conference where Romannuci announced the lawsuit's filing, Romanucci said.

"The family has been through horror," he said. "This boy has had significant issues at school since this happened."

Romanucci would not confirm whether the student still attends Maine West. He said the hazing occurred while coaches were present.

The earlier lawsuit alleged there were instances of hazing of a freshman baseball player and three freshman soccer players, citing attacks dating back to 2007.

Romanucci said the District 207 school community should demand Haugan and the assistant superintendents at the time hazing was reported in 2008 resign or be fired for not acting sooner.

"Had enforcement been completed and done in 2008, we wouldn't be here today," he said.

Romanucci said recent legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn criminalizing the failure to report hazing is a direct result of the hazing scandal at Maine West.

"No more can educators sit on the sidelines," he said.

Romanucci said his office continues to receive inquiries from students, parents and grandparents concerned about abuse that could warrant more lawsuits.

District 207 spokesman Dave Beery said Tuesday afternoon district officials cannot comment at this time because they have not reviewed the lawsuit.

The district is sponsoring one-hour workshops, starting Tuesday and going through Thursday, that are mandatory for coaches and student-athletes and open to parents at its three high schools in part to address hazing. The presentation led by the local chapter of the national nonprofit Positive Coaching Alliance includes video-based anti-hazing messages, tips on defining and recognizing hazing, and the importance of creating a positive team culture.

District officials originally intended to allow media access to the workshops to highlight the "constructive steps" the district has taken to address the Maine West hazing allegations. Following Tuesday's lawsuit announcement, officials decided to close the workshops.

"Tonight's event is neither a public meeting nor general admission event. It was designed and is intended first and foremost for the benefit and information of our students, parents and coaches as we begin a new school year and new athletic season," the district said in a news release.

Both Divincenzo and Rodriguez were initially suspended without pay before later being fired.

The Cook County state's attorney's office filed charges against Divincenzo in May. The charges were based on events that were reported to have occurred between June 1 and Sept. 26 last year.

Divincenzo, 37, of Elk Grove Village, is next scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. Oct. 15 in Skokie for a status hearing. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to supervised probation or up to one year in jail.

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