CHICAGO (CBS)– Employees of Reed-Custer Community Unit School District 255 in Braidwood failed to prevent an incoming freshman from being sexually assaulted and then failed to protect him after the incident, according to a lawsuit filed by the teen’s family on Wednesday.
A week before the lawsuit was filed, the brave teen, Anthony Brookman, spoke to CBS 2’s Dave Savini last week to expose the horrific hazing he endured at Reed-Custer High School’s summer football camp in Braidwood.
Brookman said he reported the assaults to coaches and school administrators, but little was done.
Brookman described the attacks in detail last week while speaking to CBS 2. He recalled multiple players ganging up on him and trying to sexually assault him- 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,” Brookman said. “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.”
Just 14-years-old at the time, Brookman said he yelled for help and begged them to stop. He could barely breathe.
According to the lawsuit filed Nov. 28, coaches knew about the hazing culture at the school, but failed to stop it. Former head coach Mark Wolf is named in the court documents.
Brookman said Wolf did not see his attack, but knew all about the hazing. Wolf last week refused to talk about what happened to Brookman or about hazing.
Wolf, according to today’s lawsuit, encouraged players during pre-game pep-talks to “unleash their inner rapist” or “rip off” the genitalia of the opposing team.
The coach refused to comment when CBS 2’s Savini confronted him about the allegations.
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 when he became a target of his peers.
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,” Brookman said.
He said similar assaults happened three times within a two-month period. The most recent one was the worst.
“It felt like the third time, they just said, ‘Screw it let’s just give him all we’ve got’,” Brookman said.
When his complaints about the abuse fell on deaf ears, he said he felt like he didn’t matter.
Braidwood police later arrested three players, who were charged as juveniles, with aggravated battery in the public way – a felony.
The lawsuit filed by his family this week accuses Reed-Custer High School employees of allowing the hazing culture to exist and also says the school failed to protect Brookman from student retaliation that followed.
“It was more like an (emotional) hazing, telling me to kill myself to die,” Brookman said. “I’m worthless.”
The abuse has only worsened during the past week because an onslaught of social media bullying began.
One person wrote, “He talked sh** and got his a** kicked.”
In another post, someone writes, “Ya’ll want some smoke??”
Another public message reads, ” (F***) this kid–he’s only doing it for the money his sisters a b**** to lmao.”
Shawn Collins is the Brookman’s family attorney.
“The people responsible for creating the culture is the adults and they don’t want any part in accountability here,” Collins said. “It’s horribly wrong.”
Collins claims someone even tried to set up Brookman by creating a phony Snapchat account in his name last week in an attempt to try to portray him as a bully.
The phony account refers to another person as “disgusting.”
“You make everyone want to vomit. Your momma made a mistake bringing you in this world. I can’t tell your face from you’re a**.”
Brookman is now at new school. The lawsuit says the Reed-Custer High School Football Team “promoted, encouraged and fostered a culture of hazing, abuse, assault and sexual assault.” The boys charged are awaiting trial but the Will County State’s Attorney’s office declined to comment because the teens are being charged as juveniles.
Reed-Custer’s Superintendent Mark Mitchell denied the allegations and said the district plans on vigorously defending itself and protecting its reputation.
The school district released the following statement following CBS 2’s original report.
“As reported by CBS 2 on November 20, 2018, the individual in question is no longer a student of our School District and our staff has had no interaction with him. We unequivocally deny the plaintiffs’ allegations that School District officials “were aware of, or tacitly acknowledged, a culture of abuse, hazing, bullying and assault” toward the individual; that hazing has been “part of the culture of the Reed-Custer Football Team for years;” and that “coaches have either sanctioned these rituals or turned a blind eye toward them.” We intend to vigorously defend these baseless allegations and protect the reputation of our fine School District and its staff.”
The statement continued, “We have no knowledge of anyone creating a fake social media account in the individual’s name.”