4 charged in MMS hazing
By GEOFF CUNNINGHAM Jr.
Article Date: Tuesday, November 6, 2007
LACONIA â€” The Laconia Police Department has filed juvenile charges against four Memorial Middle School students relating to their involvement in hazing activities taking part on the school’s football team.
Laconia Police Chief Mike Moyer said juvenile petitions have been forwarded to the students (all members of the team) explaining charges that relate to their alleged violations the state law that makes hazing illegal.
Local police launched an investigation of members of the MMS football team on or around Oct. 18 after reports surfaced that a large majority of the team was participating in hazing activities in the school’s locker room.
School officials said the issue was brought to Memorial Middle School football coach Jeff Keith’s attention by a parent of a child on the team, who expressed concerns about inappropriate behavior in the locker room on the part of more than one player.
Superintendent Bob Champlin indicates that the concern was immediately taken to Middle School Principal Jim McCollum who conducted an investigation and discovered that a majority of the team had been involved in alleged hazing activities for four weeks without the coach knowing.
School officials responded by meeting with the students and their parents. They also canceled the team’s remaining two games.
Moyer declined to comment on the ages or grades of those being charged as breaking the state’s hazing law and said only that there was enough evidence to warrant police action.
He said the youths receiving the juvenile petitions may or may not end up in court depending on whether police decide that a court diversion program might be more appropriate.
“(The juvenile petition) is just a complaint spelling out what they are alleged to have done. If they were an adult it would be a criminal complaint. It alleges the dates and times and what law was broken,” said Moyer.
The chief said the decision to bring charges came after a thorough investigation of the matter.
“The officer (investigating this) conducted thirty-something interviews. We looked at it felt that the statute was certainly broken and decided to bring forward these petitions,” said Moyer.
He reiterated Champlin’s sentiment that the boys involved in the hazing are good kids who made a poor decision.
Moyer said local police are currently working with the Youth Services Bureau to be proactive about warning youths about the ramifications of such hazing activities.
He said authorities are in the planning process of putting together an educational program that will focus on the consequences of hazing that will be brought to students at the school.