Moderator Hank Nuwer: This is an exceptionally researched USA Today article on the Groton High School scandal in New York State.
Parents of football players allege school officials took an overly aggressive approach to discovering evidence, sometimes using intimidation and not doing enough to dispel the notion that all players were guilty.
“They were so amazingly aggressive with these young people,” said Joseph Sirvent, the father of a sophomore player on the team who was not involved in the harassment. “The school was trying to punish as many football players as they could, regardless of any evidence.
“Even those not involved were treated as if guilty,” he said.
In the community, that uncertainty spread into gossip mongering and recriminations that every football player was trouble, Sirvent said. It got as bad as threats of violence on social media, he said.
Sirvent and others are quick to say that no one condones hazing, that the boys responsible were wrong in their actions, and deserve appropriate punishment.
For some, a misdemeanor charge for the two young men fell far short of justice.
“They are getting a slap on the hand,” said Rebecca Mayne, of Groton, who said the incident convinced her son to quit the football team and not to try out for the wrestling team this winter.
The culture of bullying throughout Groton sports created an atmosphere that is dangerous for athletes, and does a poor job preparing them for life, she said.
In the football case, she felt the actions exceeded that of mere bullying and hazing and crossed the line into sexual misconduct.
The family of the victim has come out to criticize the handling of the episode by school officials and authorities.
“I expect my children to be safeguarded and protected while in your care. You have failed at this,” the victim’s mother told the assembled school board on Oct. 20. “You allowed my son to be sexually assaulted, bullied and hazed,” she said. The mother is not named to protect the identity of her son.
The one-page accusatory document from Tompkins County Sheriff’s Investigator Rick Tubbs makes no mention of a sexual nature to the harassment.