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Hazing News

Not again. More accusations of sexual hazing near Grand Rapids

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By Nate Reens
The Grand Rapids Press

COOPERSVILLE — Accusations of sex abuse or hazing of teammates has led to the suspension of four junior varsity baseball players and the rest of the team’s season being canceled, Coopersville Public Schools Superintendent Kevin O’Neill said.

School officials and Ottawa County sheriff’s detectives are investigating an alleged attack on a 15-year-old player inside the high school boys’ locker room on Friday.

O’Neill said players questioned about the incident said the victim allegedly was penetrated with an object and allegedly was slapped in the face with body parts. He said the players also revealed additional incidents may have occurred at other times involving other players.

“As it plays out, it’s kind of a team thing, and there may be some who had it happen to them and then perpetrated it on others,” O’Neill said Tuesday. “We take hazing or bullying — whatever you want to term it, of any kind — very seriously, and this is not OK with anybody.

“We intend to find out where it got started and what happened and then act swiftly to take care of the problem.”

The four suspensions, set at 10 days per student, could increase in the coming days with the sanctions lengthened and more of the team’s 13 players being punished.

The ultimate penalty could be expulsion, as required under state law if a sex abuse is substantiated, O’Neill said.

The team’s coach, Brian Barrett, said he resigned Saturday after being asked by the district’s athletic director to step down.

Barrett, 25, played baseball at Coopersville and was an all-conference outfielder in 2000. He worked with the team for six years, but this season was his first as junior varsity coach. He is not a district employee and is studying to be a teacher.

Barrett defended himself Tuesday, and said he was surprised when he learned of the allegations.

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.

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