Hazing reports a shock to coaches
Charges describe incidents with three victims in East High football locker room
By Andrew Aragon
and Nate Carlisle
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 09/28/2007 02:05:01 AM MDT
Floored, stunned, shocked – words some Utah high school football coaches used after learning that three East High sophomore players allegedly were involved in a series of apparent hazing incidents.
The three 15-year-olds were kicked off the sophomore team and were charged Sept. 19 with forcible sodomy, attempted forcible sodomy and sexual abuse, all first-degree felonies.
“It is very unfortunate,” said Skyline coach Roger DuPaix, in his 21st season as a varsity coach in Utah. “I don’t think it was typical [hazing] at all. They didn’t cut their hair off or smear Vaseline on them. Any kind of hazing is very inappropriate. It’s disturbing to hear what happened.”
Information filed with the charges in 3rd District Juvenile Court describe three incidents involving different victims, from late August through mid-September.
According to witness statements, each incident involved two players touching their genitals and buttocks to the faces and heads of a victim.
East coach Aaron Whitehead said he notified police and suspended the three 15-year-olds after learning of the incidents. The players were kicked off the team after they were formally charged.
“My heart went out to the victims in the worst way,” said Whitehead, who noted that all three victims are now back playing football.
Whitehead, highly respected among his
peers, has agonized over the incidents since he first heard about them. DuPaix was Whitehead’s football coach at Skyline, and he feels a tremendous amount of empathy for his former player, the East coaching staff and the three victims.
“I know their principles and what they stand for,” DuPaix said of Whitehead and his staff. “They have the highest standards of conduct. As coaches, you instruct your players on how to be a good example to your teammates and to your community. For this to happen, I know they’re just devastated.”
Coaches agree that there is no one single method to prevent hazing at all athletic programs. Whitehead took a precaution in having all of his players sign a code of ethics agreement before they started practicing with the team in the summer.
Highland coach Brody Benson said he doesn’t have a formal code of ethics, but he expects his players to understand hazing in unacceptable.
“I was floored,” Benson said. “How do kids do that and think number one, it’s OK, and number two, that nothing was going to happen to them when they were done doing it? Maybe there was a little stupidity involved in thinking it was no big deal.”
More news on the matter from ABC-Tv
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – Three East High School football students are facing some serious criminal charges. The 15-year-olds were arrested after police say they sexually assaulted three other teammates in the locker room after a practice.
According to charging court documents, the three sophomores are charged as juveniles with forcible sodomy, attempted forcible sodomy, and forcible sexual abuse, all first degree felonies.
Now there will be no more football – or attendance – at East High for the three accused players. Police documents state that a student, “â€¦was jumped by two kids who held him down in the locker roomâ€¦” then performed a sexual act involving one person’s genitals with the other’s body. Another student claims, “â€¦he was in the showers when [the accused] came from behind him and pulled him to the ground… that they forced him into a corner of the showerâ€¦â€ and performed a similar act. A third alleged victim recounts a similar story.
On Thursday, one of the accused players told ABC 4 his side of the story. He says, â€œWe were playing around in our football practice then he pushed me then I wanted to get him back so I told my friends to help me and when they helped me I guess we took it over the limits.â€
School principal Paul Sagers says there is a school policy against this type of behavior and that the district is taking this issue very seriously. Sagers says, â€œThe district and East High we have an absolute no tolerance towards hazing, bullying, any type of sexual harassment.â€
The reaction from students we talked to were mixed. Some agreeing that what happened was wrong. Freshman Rita McNeil says, â€œA lot of the football players are really popular so if they’re doing stuff it kind of set an example for the rest of the kids and it’s not a good example.â€ Another student says, â€œA lot of kids just take it as a joke but what they did was really gross and wrong.â€
But others say hazing is a tradition among football players, that this whole thing may be an over reaction. Freshman Griffin Timm believes, â€œA lot of people just think that … football, locker room… yeah just think that it’s like what guys do and it’s just normal.â€
For now the sophomores accused of sexual assault are dealing with their actions. One says, â€œWhen the consequence happened we all felt dumb.â€ He also offered n apology. â€œI’d like to say sorry to him for what we did.â€
School officials say that the football coach does talk to the players about the zero tolerance policy and the school’s stance against any kind of bullying, hazing, or sexual abuse. The three 15 year olds are expected in court next month.