Attorney retained by possible victim in Lake Zurich High hazing case
Lawyer also filed suit on behalf of Maine West soccer players
An attorney who handled a lawsuit in the Maine West High School soccer team hazing case has been retained by the family of a student-athlete alleged to have been hazed in a similar way by Lake Zurich High School football players.
In a news release, lawyer Antonio Romanucci claimed there was "widespread, egregious" misconduct by some football team members over the last few months.
"No student should ever feel they are in danger at school. Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 must be held accountable," said Romanucci, whose firm last week struck a $1 million lawsuit settlement on behalf of five former Maine West students who said they were hazed while on the boys soccer team in 2012.
Lake Zurich police said they are still investigating reports of inappropriate behavior in a high school football locker room days before a Nov. 5 state playoff game against Fenwick High School. It's unknown if Romanucci's client is part of that investigation.
Authorities said they began the probe after the Daily Herald reported football players were ordered to sign a student behavior agreement before the Fenwick game or be prohibited from playing the rest of the 2016 season. The agreement was part of a letter sent to players and parents.
Police Chief Steven Husak said investigators are working all angles, and he spoke to District 95 Superintendent Kaine Osburn as part of the investigation Wednesday. Osburn said the men have communicated regularly regarding the football squad.
Investigators have been working a case in which potential victims have yet to file a formal complaint, Husak said.
"We are still conducting our investigation," he told the Daily Herald. "It is legitimate and is being conducted by members of our criminal investigations division. We are in contact with the district and the (Lake County) state's attorney's office on a regular basis."
At a District 95 school board meeting Wednesday night, President Doug Goldberg told about 60 spectators that an internal investigation led by a law firm is nearing completion. He said officials are committed to getting to the bottom of the situation.
"We brought in a third party to facilitate this," Goldberg said. "We felt it was very important to make sure we had all the facts, not just hearsay, but all the facts, so the administration and board could make informed decisions about what things we should do going forward."
Although the letter obtained by the Daily Herald provided no details about what happened, it included several references to hazing. It said team members participated in "inappropriate activity" in the locker room after team dinners.
After an employee told administrators about something that occurred, Osburn said, they acted quickly and notified a school resource officer, who then alerted Lake Zurich police superiors. He said the district also notified the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Head football coach David Proffitt and assistant Chad Beaver were placed on paid administrative leave just before the Fenwick game, which the Bears lost 20-14 to end their season. Proffitt is a physical education teacher at the school, and Beaver is a dean.
Proffitt declined to comment on his job status or other issues when reached by the Daily Herald before Wednesday's board meeting. Proffitt did not attend the board session.
"I can't tell you anything," Proffitt said. "That's what I've been told to do."
Beaver could not be reached for comment.
Osburn stressed the paid leave for Proffitt and Beaver is a typical step when conducting a personnel inquiry and does not indicate wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, some parents at Wednesday night's meeting raised questions about how District 95 told the football players they had to sign the student behavior agreement or not participate in the playoff game against Fenwick. Andrea Perrin, whose son played on this year's team, said the document was unfair.
"They were all found guilty without the chance to make a statement," Perrin said.
District 95 resident Kerry Hughes said school administrators have failed everyone so far. She said the district should have forfeited the Fenwick game if it had enough information about the players' behavior instead of giving them an agreement to sign that she likened to extortion.
Lake Zurich Quarterback Club boosters announced Wednesday the annual football team awards night set for Tuesday, Nov. 29, in the high school's performing arts center has been postponed due to a scheduling conflict.
Osburn said while he's not involved in the football recognition dinner planning, he expects it will "take place at the appropriate time in the appropriate way, after we have completed our investigation and taken appropriate steps."