Maine West mom says son sexually assaulted in soccer hazing
The mother of a 14-year-old Maine West High School boy who she says was sexually assaulted by members of the school's boys varsity soccer team during a hazing ritual announced Monday the family has filed a lawsuit against school officials and coaches.
The mother, who was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses to disguise her identity, spoke at a news conference at Romanucci & Blandin LLC law office in Chicago.
"I'm very angry at the staff and the coaches," said the student's mother, who was visibly upset. "School should be safe for kids."
The woman's attorney, Antonio Romanucci, said the hazing took place on Sept. 27 during school hours on school property. He said three freshman students who were promoted to the varsity team were victims of bullying and hazing, but he would only speak on behalf of his client.
According to the complaint, the boy was pushed and shoved by team members, who then held him down, tore off his underwear and sodomized him. Romanucci said the hazing was sanctioned by the coaches, who ordered the team to do a "campus run," which was code for hazing.
School officials and police were made aware of what happened after students kept talking about the hazing during school, Romanucci said. He added that the boy went to the hospital after the information was leaked and there was evidence of sexual assault.
Romanucci said the school has conducted more than 100 interviews with people who have knowledge of the hazing case. He believes there are likely more suspects and more victims.
Romanucci said he believes hazing has been occurring at the school for at least the last three to four years.
"Whatever customs that they ever had before, we want those wiped away and we want new rules put in place," he said, adding that the lawsuit seeks monetary and injunctive relief. "This behavior can't happen again."
Maine Township High School District 207 released a statement that officials haven't seen the lawsuit. "In any event, District 207 would have no public comment on pending litigation but would instead respond through designated and appropriate legal channels," the statement said.
Disciplinary action has been taken against 10 students, according to the statement. Varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo and freshmen 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.
The District 207/Maine West investigation is ongoing, as is an investigation by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, according to the statement.
Last week, Des Plaines police said six juveniles have been petitioned to juvenile court. Police Chief William Kushner said Monday each juvenile was charged with one count battery and one count hazing. None was charged with sexual assault. Kushner said he wouldn't comment further on the investigation or the charges because the victims and offenders were all juveniles.