District 207 says 2008 Maine West hazing case similar to 2012 allegations

A 2008 hazing incident involving the Maine West High School freshman baseball team is now being considered “similar in pattern” — and involves the same coach — as events that a lawsuit alleges occurred on the school’s boys varsity soccer team this fall, officials said Sunday.

According to a statement released Sunday night, Maine Township High School District 207 became aware of the 2008 incident just this month on Nov. 16, although school-level officials knew about and disciplined the involved parties soon after the incident took place. District officials could not say Sunday what the punishment for those students involved.

At least four members of the freshman baseball team in 2008 were accused of pulling down a teammate’s pants in a school locker room, according to the statement. At that time the baseball team was coached by Mike DiVincenzo, who this fall was coaching soccer and has since been reassigned because of the allegations involving the soccer team.

The mother of the baseball player contacted Superintendent Ken Wallace’s office Nov. 16 and the district had several conversations with the family in the following days. On Nov. 21, the family said that on the advice of their attorney they would not be speaking to the district about the incident any further, according to the statement.

On Nov. 19, the mother of a 14-year-old Maine West student announced a lawsuit against school officials and coaches, saying her son was sexually assaulted by members of the boys varsity soccer team in September 2012.

According to the complaint, the soccer case involved a boy who was pushed and shoved by team members, then held down and sodomized. The woman’s lawyer, Antonio Romanucci, said the hazing was sanctioned by the coaches, who ordered the team to do a “campus run,” which was code for hazing.

At a news conference last week Romanucci said he believes hazing has been occurring at the school for at least the last three to four years. Wallace said he believes the family of the 2008 baseball player has joined the soccer lawsuit, but Romanucci could not be reached for comment Sunday night.

Disciplinary action has been taken against 10 students in the soccer incident, according to a statement. DiVincenzo and freshman coach Emilio Rodriguez, both District 207 teachers, have been temporarily reassigned with pay, the statement said. Three coaches who were not Maine West teachers have been removed from their coaching responsibilities.

Wallace said that when he first heard about both issues he asked that district officials notify the Department of Child and Family Services, but he said those investigations can take time.

“We are working on an action plan for our staff and our families,” Wallace said Sunday night. “We need to emphasize how important it is not to tolerate this when it does happen and to take steps to makes sure it never happens again. We’re going to review everything from top to bottom.”

Wallace said if there are other parents or students who know of similar events, they should contact the district and report them immediately.

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