Pa. District Cancels Remainder of Football Season Due to Alleged Hazing
It appears as though the folks of Sayreville, N.J., aren't the only ones confronting an alleged hazing scandal involving a local high school football team.
On Thursday, Central Bucks (Pa.) school district Superintendent David Weitzel sent a letter to parents and staff announcing the cancellation of the high school varsity and junior varsity football seasons due to "allegations of improper conduct." The superintendent first learned of the allegations on Oct. 14, and following an ongoing internal investigation, he decided to act swiftly and forcefully.
"Our inquiry determined that students new to the team were expected to participate in several initiations that were both humiliating and inappropriate," Weitzel wrote. "The most personally invasive activity required a rookie to grab another player's private parts while fully clothed. These initiations took place in front of most team members."
Beyond cancelling the rest of the football season, Weitzel suspended all members of the varsity and junior varsity coaching staff "pending further investigation."
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the school notified the Central Bucks Regional Police Department of the allegations on Wednesday. "The allegations included rumors of what students described as "waterboarding," but what [police chief James] Donnelly said sounded more like teens being placed under showers with towels over their head," the paper reported.
Donnelly expressed particular concern over Weitzel's letter to parents and staff, calling it "damning."
"We don't know if it was just kids horsing around or if it was more serious, but we're going to investigate," he told the paper.
Donnelly told The Intelligencer that his department had initially determined players had not committed a crime, but expressed Thursday his intention to re-examine the allegations, raising the possibility of criminal charges being filed.
The district's school board plans to discuss the allegations at its next meeting on Tuesday, according to The Intelligencer.
"As we move forward, we will be reinstructing players and athletic personnel on all of our sports teams in all of our schools with regard to our Code of Conduct," Weitzel wrote in his letter. "There will be no exceptions when it comes to compliance. Appropriate team-building activities cannot be permitted to spiral out of control and become hazing."
The district's code of conduct defines hazing as the following: "All verbal, written, or physical conduct, which harasses, humiliates, persecutes students, or disrupts with any student's curricular or extracurricular experiences." Any student found guilty of hazing "shall be subject to disciplinary actions up to and including expulsion," while any students who bear witness to acts of hazing and fail to report them "shall also be subject to appropriate disciplinary matters."
Based on the superintendent's letter, it seems as though he had no choice but to cancel the remainder of the football teams' seasons. If "most team members" witnessed the alleged hazing incidents, it's hard to imagine they'd be allowed to continue on participating on their respective teams.
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