CHICAGO (CBS) — A brave teen speaks out to expose repeated hazing at his high school.
Anthony Brookman said he was assaulted and reported it to coaches and school administrators, but little was done to the offenders.
He tells his story to CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini.
Anthony Brookman started playing football at age seven, in area youth leagues. He was excited to play in high school and enjoy all the fun that goes with it.
“Like one of those good high school movies, you know, I wanted to kind of be like that,” said Brookman.
But in 2017, the summer before his freshman year even began, all that changed.
Brookman went to Reed-Custer High School’s summer football camp in Braidwood, run by head coach Mark Wolf. It was under Wolf’s watch that Brookman said hazing persisted and even had a special name – Smoke.
“Every time you heard smoke, somebody was getting bent over,” said Brookman.
He said he was on the school track the first time he got smoked by other players.
“He’s like, ‘you want some smoke’,” said Brookman. “I’m just saying, no. ‘Come on you want some smoke, you want some smoke’, and just keep repeatedly saying it.”
At just 135 pounds, he was an easy target.
“He would take his hand, grab the back of my neck,” said Brookman who also said it happened three times in two months. “It felt like the third time, they just said, ‘Screw it let’s just give him all we’ve got’,” said Brookman.
He describes how multiple players ganged up on him and tried to assault him sexually – putting his shirt over his head and pulling his shorts down to his ankles.
“The first guy who slapped me twice and knocked me down, he kicked me in my right side on to my ribs,” said Brookman who explained one player held his legs down. “While the fourth one took my shorts off and they pulled my legs up so that he could get his finger to my, you know, body part.”
Brookman said he yelled for help, begged them to stop and could barely breathe. But he said his attackers warned other players.
“They were just saying to others, ‘Anyone jumps in and you’re next’,” said Brookman.
He said the worst pain came from a big player kneeling, with crushing power, on his chest.
“It felt like I was shot in my lung,” said Brookman. “I couldn’t breathe.”
When his parents saw him, they rushed him to the hospital.
“They thought he might have had a punctured lung or even heart damage due to the pressure on his chest,” said Allison Brookman, Anthony’s mother.
At the hospital, Anthony’s father, Richard Brookman, said it was devastating.
“They put him through a rape test,” said Richard Brookman. “And that’s, that’s what about broke me down.”
The Brookman’s blame the football coaches for repeatedly failing to stop the hazing.
“It destroys you as a parent,” said Allison Brookman. “All I can say is sheer anger. Just anger.”
Anthony Brookman said one of the coaches saw it happen twice, but did nothing. He says the head coach, Mark Wolf, did not see his attack, but knew all about the hazing. Wolf refused to talk about what happened to Brookman or about hazing.
So what happened to the players who assaulted Brookman? He said not much.
“I would tell the principals, but the principals wouldn’t do anything about it,” said Anthony Brookman.
“We spoke to the superintendents. Nothing was done at that level,” said Richard Brookman. “We were told, since it was a week or two before school starting, that their rules don’t apply.”
He said the problem was handed off to the athletic department and a few players were given three-game suspensions.
The Brookman’s hired Attorney Shawn Collins who said, “To our knowledge, nobody who sexually assaulted Anthony, missed a day of school.”
Collins said the school’s principal protected the abusers.
“Rather than investigating and hold people accountable, he suddenly starts to defend them and say, ‘Well we need to give them a second chance’,” said Collins.
Braidwood Police did take action. Three teens were arrested and charged, as juveniles, with aggravated battery in the public way – a felony. Soon after, Coach Mark Wolf chose to resign as head coach, though he still teaches at the school.
You would think that is the end of the story. It is not.
Word that the family called police spread fast, and in this small Will County city known for its nuclear power plant, people quickly took sides.
“We’ve had a few families that just don’t talk to us anymore,” said Richard Brookman.
“A lot of people look at us like we’re the family who is making a big deal over something that isn’t a big deal,” said Allison Brookman.
Life at school for Anthony Brookman actually got worse. He said he was repeatedly tormented and bullied by other students. On social media, one student wrote: “He’s just a bitch and ratted everyone out.”
Another said to the teen, “You are just a (expletive) tht [sic] over reacted”.
But the most vicious attacks were said right to him.
“They would just tell me to kill myself. I’m a little bitch my family’s psychotic. I’m going to go nowhere in life. I’m worthless,” said Anthony Brookman.
Did the school punish those offenders?
“Not one person who screwed with me or bullied me got one detention,” said Anthony Brookman.
Richard Brookman says he began to feel guilty for what happened to his son.
“You hold your child in your arms for the first time and you’d swear to God that you’d never let anything happen to him,” Richard Brookman said. “And for this to happen, just makes me feel like I failed as a father. For not stopping it. For not being there for him.”
Anthony Brookman stopped playing football and stopped going out. He said he was forced to see his attackers at school, where he struggled. He said he became depressed and suicidal.
“I’m not suicidal anymore, but I am still depressed, hurt, mad,” said Anthony Brookman who recently switched to a new school.
The three teens are back in court in January. If convicted, they could get anywhere from probation to being locked up until they are 21.
Braidwood’s school superintendent would not talk about Brookman’s case, but said they follow conduct policies.