(CBS) Niles North High School has suspended varsity football operations over an alleged hazing incident.
The school’s principal sent a letter to parents Monday telling them officials began investigating over the weekend and notified Skokie police. The school has not spelled out what the allegation involves, but stressed that hazing, bullying, and harassment of any kind would not be tolerated.
“The safety and security of our students is our top priority,” Niles North principal James Edwards said in a prepared statement. “We have zero tolerance of hazing or even the threat of it. Because this is a matter that involves student confidentiality, we ask that our students and families be patient as the investigation unfolds.”
As the investigation continues, Niles North will “suspend its varsity football operations until further notice,” officials said.
The Niles North Vikings have two wins and three losses this season, with four games left to play, but it’s unclear if any of those games will happen, now that varsity football operations have been suspended while the school investigates the hazing allegations.
Adrian Brown, a 2017 Niles North graduate who was on the team last year, said he’s still in touch with some of the players. He said the actions that led to the suspension essentially amounted to kids goofing off.
“People were just, like, picking on each other; jokingly, though,” he said.
C.J. Foreman said his brother is on the team, and the incident simply amounted to older players roughhousing with younger ones.
“Roughing them up a little bit,” he said.
Foreman said the punishment far exceeds any misdeeds.
“The suspension, I think that’s too far,” he said.
Other students disagreed.
“You shouldn’t be hazing to begin with,” junior Ali Syed said. “If you’re already down that path, you’re already in the wrong.”
Brown said the team members care about each other deeply, and would have benefitted more from a stern lecture than a potentially season-ending suspension.
“To take away their whole season because of this? I don’t think that’s right,” he said.
Skokie Police said the investigation is “in it’s infancy,” and added the school district and Niles North officials are cooperating.
“Interviews of juvenile athletes/students and coaching staff will take place over the next few days,” Skokie Police said in a statement Tuesday morning.
Anyone with information on the incident should contact Skokie police at 847-982-5900 or at the 24-hour automated Crime Tip Hot Line, 847-933-TIPS. Text-A-Tip also is available by texting “Skokie” and your tip information to 847411.