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Editorial

From the moderator Hank Nuwer:

Protecting Sports Camp Participants

by Hank Nuwer

If high school athletes throw morals and good sense to the wind and sexually assault young boys to initiate them as rookies at an away sports camp on a college’s property, who is responsible?

The answer may come from a trial in Carter County*, Missouri getting no national media coverage. There are only allegations, no established facts yet in the case.
Here is the condensed version reconstructed from parent emails to me and news reports.

Last summer East Carter High School basketball coach Benjamin “Benji” Stahl brought his team veterans and rookies to a long-standing camp run by Lyon College of Arkansas. The basketball camp run by Lyon College was run by its own men’s head basketball coach Kevin Jenkins. Each visiting high school player paid $220.

Somehow all hell broke loose. Allegedly, 11 students were sexually assaulted by six veterans. It is unknown how far back this tradition at East Carter goes back, or if it goes back at all. [See another case–UC Colorado–in which a school’s alleged deliberate indifference may be considered in a court of law.]

These are the rough details.

A lawsuit has been filed by parents of the 11 young boys. East Carter coach Stahl, himself a former player at the school, situated himself in a room two floors away from his players while the alleged attacks too place.

The lawsuit against East Carter and Lyon schools and individuals alleges that three Lyon undergraduates were minding the dormitory floor on which the East Carter athletes stayed. In spite of an alleged violent sexual attack on 11 young boys during an act of hazing that had to be at least as loud as a turned up television, no one from Lyon College acknowledges hearing anything that called for police, camp director, or high school coach intervention. This alleged ruckus and abuse was not reported to Lyon College until days after the closing of basketball camp.

Was this a criminal matter? Yes, but that also merits looking into. Is it worth a misdemeanor or felony charge against perpetrators?

Parents of those assaulted say they want felony sexual assault charges filed and tried in court. Upon conviction that could give hazers the same kind of punishment that went against Winslow High School basketball players in 2000. Only there were witnesses to that Winslow hazing. Male athletes were touched inappropriately with objects and fingers. Some players served serious jail time.

In Missouri, the hazers, even if convicted in juvenile court, won’t have the same consequences that players on that Winslow team had after their convictions. That is because the recently elected prosecuting attorney Don McSpadden has looked at all the facts and says this is a case of bullying, not an instance of sexual assault. (Ask him why, not me.)
However, the civil suit that will likely drag on three or four years or more very well may provide far more public disclosure in this case.

Here are the lessons that the East Carter High School case has to teach the public:

1) College sports camps need guidelines to protect institutions, employees and visiting players. In spite of highly publicized sports camps tarnishing the reputations of coaches and players at dozens of schools in Long Island (N.Y), Watertown, Mass., Michigan, Oregon, Arizona, on and on, the NCAA has not issued safety and security guidelines that would establish protections for operators of the camp, visiting high schools and their coaches, and high school players, particularly rookies. To find a selected list of sports camp hazing attacks, visit http://hazing.hanknuwer.com/hs2.html
2) Sports camps need responsible adults such as campus security or coaches to oversee floors in residence halls. Undergraduate helpers or high school players may assist but should NEVER be in charge. See this 2003 camp incident as a cautionary tale: Two Avery County basketball players working at an North Carolina State University basketball camp admitted sodomizing younger students in a dormitory, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. One was found guilty of ten counts of hazing and the other was guilty of multiple accounts of simple assault. One was expelled from Avery and both were kicked off the basketball team. A father told the newspaper is son’s rectum was severely injured. The families of the victims cooperated with the court to let the more culpable offender receive a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony charge that brought with it far tougher sentencing. Avery basketball coaches were supposed to be supervising the counselors.

3) Thanks to the watchdog group Security on Campus, colleges now are far more scrupulous in how they report crimes and prevent rapes and murders. In a decision that intentionally or unintentionally protects the reputation of Lyon College, prosecutor Don McSpadden has ruled that the charges of 11 victims that they were sexually assaulted amounts to bullying, not male on male rape or sexual assault because of his self-appointed ruling to say sexual assault is not rape unless there is sexual gratification. Please see any legitimate study on rape before concurring with McSpadden, reader.

4) The anger that greeted Prosecutor McSpadden’s decision led to a nasty confrontation at an East Carter JHS building last week when police swarmed everywhere in response to an unfounded rumor that a parent of a victim was about to exact revenge. Although East Carter administrators tried to reassure parents, and refused to issue a lockdown, they had to deal with the fear factor and mistrust by parents—and so many parents pulled their children from classes that day in spite of police on the scene protecting all.

There are no winners in the Lyon College – East Carter incident. The two trials presumably must establish whether Coach Stahl or Coach Jenkins knew, or reasonably should have known that an initiation might take place. If this was not an isolated incident and any of the six alleged perpetrators had gone through hazing during their own rookie year, that will be something each of the two courts must consider when appointing responsibility for events.

Personally? I try to keep objective as my Hazing Information web site and Stophazing.org report more and more sexual assaults in high school initiations year after year.

As I do, the words of some almost forgotten song of my youth called “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” keeps flickering like candle light through my mind.

“When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?”

Reform of sports camps to end sexual hazing is not only due, it is overdue.

A long, long time ago.

____________________________________________________________

From Lexis-Nexis–Missouri Hazing Law. hazing is a ““willful act, occurring on or off campus of an educational
institution, directed against a student or prospective member of an organization operating under the sanction of an educational institution, that recklessly endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student or prospective member for the purpose of initiation or admission into or
continued membership in any such organization to the extent that such person is knowingly placed at a substantial risk of loss of life or bodily or psychological harm. A person commits the
crime of hazing if they knowingly participate in or cause hazing.”

Thank you to Randy for pointing out the trial is in Carter, not Butler County.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

2 replies on “Editorial”

I’m confused about your references to Butler County in your blog. I thought the lawsuit was filed in Carter County which part of the 37th Judicial Circuit. If you want to learn more about the community, please take a look at http://www.ellsinore.com.

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