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Article posted: 10/15/2013 6:28 PM

Maine West hazing suit dismissed, but not over yet

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A Cook County judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against Maine Township High School District 207 brought by four student-athletes who say they were hazed at Maine West High School, but is allowing the plaintiffs a chance to refile their case.

Judge Daniel Gillespie's "ruling focused on the plaintiffs' failure to allege facts sufficient to permit the lawsuit to go forward," according to a district news release.

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Gillespie gave the plaintiffs until Nov. 19 to file an amended lawsuit, and the district has until Dec. 17 to respond.

Besides the school district, the suit names Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan, and former soccer coaches Michael Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez as defendants.

"We are pleased with the ruling, especially in light of what the district regards as the exaggerated claims asserted by plaintiffs' attorney in the media," said Superintendent Ken Wallace in a written statement.

But plaintiffs' attorney Antonio Romanucci said the case isn't over, calling Tuesday's ruling just "technical housekeeping."

"The judge requested we state more definitive facts we have against Principal (Audrey) Haugan and the school board with respect to what they knew, what they should have known, and what they did to protect students from being hazed and abused," Romanucci said.

Romanucci said the district's characterization of the judge's ruling in its news release headlined "Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against District 207," was "ridiculous." He says he wasn't surprised at all by the judge's decision.

"His ruling totally was in line with what I would've expected based on all of the defendants' motions," Romanucci said.

The plaintiffs have sought damages as a result of hazing alleged to have occurred on the boys' soccer team in the fall of 2012 and the boys' baseball team in 2008.

A separate lawsuit was filed by Romanucci in August on behalf of a fifth student.

"The district expects to continue to strongly contest any amended lawsuit as well as the second lawsuit," the district's news release states.

A status hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18.

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