An email sent by Lake Zurich Unit District 95 officials confirms administrators have been investigating a "hazing incident" involving the Lake Zurich High School varsity football team, while another described the district as "in crisis."
In an email sent at 5:40 p.m. Nov. 2, Superintendent Kaine Osburn wrote "we are finalizing an investigation into a hazing incident among varsity football players." The email included a letter the district intended to send to parents of players and directed administration "cabinet" members to not comment on matters involving student discipline with staff members, parents or community members.
It's the first documented confirmation that what had previously been referred to as "inappropriate activity" in a locker room after team dinners involved hazing.
District officials were not available for comment.
The Daily Herald obtained the emails this week from District 95 through a Freedom of Information Act request. The FOIA requested all emails involving teachers, administrators, coaches and school board members discussing any form of hazing at the high school after June 1.
The request was filed after the Daily Herald obtained a letter that ordered players to sign a student behavior agreement or be prohibited from playing the rest of the 2016 season after team members participated in "inappropriate activity" in the days before the Nov. 5 state playoff game against Fenwick High School. Lake Zurich lost that game 20-14, ending its season.
The emails -- more than 25 in all -- involve a mix of communication between administrators, parents and outside experts. Names of students and parents were redacted, as were entire paragraphs in some cases.
The communications included:
• A Nov. 3 email from Lake Zurich High School student assistance program coordinator Barbara Belke to a hazing prevention consultant inquiring about the availability of an online high school hazing prevention course because Lake Zurich High was "in crisis and looking for something soon."
• A Sept. 30 email in which district officials discuss "a reported incident of hazing" involving the freshman football team. That email is almost entirely redacted, except to say "the investigation is not complete but consequences related to football and in-school are going to be implemented."
• A Nov. 8 email in which District 95 spokeswoman Jean Malek told a member of the media that administrators considered forfeiting the Fenwick game because of the incident. However, she wrote, "the greatest benefit to our student athletes would be derived from continuing our investigation and improving education for staff and students."
Some emails involved reaction to head football coach David Proffitt and assistant coach Chad Beaver being placed on paid leave of absence before the Fenwick game, and the requirement to sign the behavior agreement.
The agreement was included in the letter that informed parents and players about the "inappropriate activity." It did not specify what happened, but it included several references to hazing. The letter outlined five conditions, including requiring parents and students to attend a workshop on positive decision making and hazing, and students to complete an online course on hazing prevention.
"The activity was egregious and warrants discipline, including suspension from school activities," the letter stated.
Lake Zurich police are investigating but have said no one has come forward to file a complaint.
During a Nov. 16 school board meeting, district officials told about 60 spectators an internal investigation led by a law firm is nearing completion and officials are determined to get to the bottom of what happened. At that meeting, Osburn said an employee had told administrators about something that occurred and the school responded quickly, including alerting police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Among the other emails provided in the FOIA were messages of support for Proffitt.
"Also very sad this incident occurred and Coach was suspended. He's a good man," one said.
Another called the requirement to sign the behavior agreement "unconstitutional" and criticized the administration's handling of the matter.
"These students in your football program are so scared to even talk about rumors or the young adults that witness this egregious acts due to the fact they will be beat up for many years to come, and you sir gave any willing participant a free ride to keep it going by asking us to sign this so we can play football tomorrow," the email said. "I am ashamed of LZ High and I learned the integrity to stand up for my actions from my mentor teachers and parents. I take pride in that."