Wednesday, September 12, 2007
By John Tunison
The Grand Rapids Press
WEST OLIVE — One parent described the attacks on his son as “true evil.”
Months after a Coopersville High School hazing incident — complete with expulsions and criminal charges against four members of the junior varsity baseball team — the victims’ families say they still are dealing with the fallout.
Moments before one of the suspects was sentenced Tuesday in Ottawa County Family Court, a father told of panic attacks, missed work and crying bouts faced by family members while trying to deal with the emotional stress.
We hope this young man’s parents see the true evil their son has taken to control other families,” he said while looking toward 15-year-old Joshua Schoenborn and his parents, David and Valerie Schoenborn.
“We continue to pray for our family and your family as well,” he said.
Schoenborn was the third of four teens charged with gross indecency to enter a plea and avoid a trial.
He pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to a minimum six months of probation, 26 hours of community service and counseling for “bullying” if ordered by a psychologist.
Scott Bush, 15, and Zane Schaefer, 16, earlier received similar sentences, while Rob Miller was expected to enter a plea today.
The four teens were accused of restraining students and performing indecent acts during the hazing incidents.
Five junior varsity baseball team members reported being victims of some type of assault or hazing during a four-to-six week period in April and May, although the criminal charges involve two victims. Some of the victims also became lesser perpetrators after they were intimidated into joining the assaultive behavior, investigators said.
Tuesday’s hearing proved emotional for parents of both Schoenborn and the victims, who clashed verbally during a brief moment when David Schoenborn questioned the lack of adult supervision in the locker room, apparently trying to deflect some blame from his son.
He also suggested one victim, whose mother was in the courtroom, was “involved” in the assaultive behavior.
“You pig!” the mother said as she ran out of the courtroom, only to return a few minutes later as court Referee Erin Magley called for calm. Schoenborn apologized for speaking out of turn.
During a statement, the mother said her son transferred to a new school because of the stigma and worries whether other students there know about the hazing or will find out.
She also said her 10-year-old daughter struggles emotionally and has heard other students talk about the hazing.
The father of the other primary victim called for harsher punishment than probation and suggested Schoenborn should be placed in a juvenile detention center.
“This has robbed my son of his innocence,” he said. “He blames himself for being attacked and wonders what he could have done differently.”
Magley warned Schoenborn’s parents to take the matter seriously and said the family as a whole needs to accept responsibility.
“It is not typical school bullying behavior. This rises above that,” she said. “This behavior is particularly offensive and distressful to the victim.”