Three More Families Join Maine West Hazing Lawsuit
Updated 11/28/12 – 5:30 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Three families have joined a lawsuit against Maine Township High School District 207, alleging their children were also hazed at Maine West High School.
WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports the three families who filed complaints Wednesday joined a fourth who filed suit last week, claiming their son was sexually assaulted during a hazing ritual at the high school.
The four young men allege they were attacked during hazing rituals at Maine West.
Three freshmen soccer players said Wednesday their coaches ordered and observed the attacks.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty Reports
One woman, identified as Jane Doe D in the lawsuit, said her son was attacked by his baseball teammates in 2008.
“His pants were ripped down, his boxers were repeatedly ripped down, and he was exposed repeatedly by a numerous amount of children on the team,” she said.
The mother claimed the hazing ended with her son being sexually assaulted by teammates, as coaches watched.
“It sickened me that this could happen to another child, what happened to my own son,” she said.
The lawsuits allege baseball and soccer players grabbed younger players during hazing rituals, held them down, grabbed their testicles, and sodomized them with their fingers and other foreign objects.
The lawsuits allege the hazing continued from 2007 through this past fall.
All four teens who are suing have alleged the same coach at Maine West – Mike Divencenzo – was there when the hazing happened.
The families’ attorney, Tony Romanucci, accused Maine West’s principal and the District 207 superintendent and school board of knowing about the hazing, but doing nothing to stop it.
An email, sent to the principal from one of the mothers in August 2008, named the coach and detailed the hazing claims, and asked the school to step in.
“Multiple children could have been saved from the humility, indignity, and emotional trauma and assault, if the district [would] have done what it could have done at that time, and that is stopped the behavior, reported this to the authorities, and terminated the coaches,” he said. “Instead, it raised a blind eye, and sanctioned the conduct so that it became a culture within the school.”
Attorneys said they’ve also heard from other students, on other teams, telling similar stories about hazing at Maine West.
“I have somebody now from within the school who is giving me information that hazing has been ongoing, it’s been a problem within the school, that it goes into the swimming program, the water polo program; and the same sort of conduct that we’re talking about here, where children on children are doing things of a sexual nature to each other,” Romanucci said.
So far, school officials have only discussed the claims in prepared written statements.
A statement from the district on Wednesday said it is aware of correspondence between the mother and administrators, and that the district is “reviewing the 2008 incident, and has made it part of our larger investigation.”
School officials have said disciplinary action was taken against 10 students for hazing, and five coaches have been relieved of their duties, at least temporarily.
Criminal charges have been filed against six students.