Hazing News

When all explanations fail, blame the culture

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The superintendent of a Texas school district blamed an “underground culture” for the high school hazing scandal that ripped apart the fabric of a suburban San Antonio community during the 2016-17 academic year.

“I think that this was an underground culture among a few students,” said Jose Moreno, superintendent of the La Vernia Independent School District. On Wednesday, he toldKSAT he had no idea the alleged crimes were going on before the first victim came forward in February.

Breitbart Texas reported on these purported sexual assaults which largely involved La Vernia High School football players, although some of the accused played on the basketball and baseball teams. When all was said and done, La Vernia police arrested 13 students, charging seven minors through the juvenile system and six others, of legal age, as adults. The alleged victims were younger male team members.

As details emerged, authorities learned the sexually motivated attacks dated back to 2014, although a lawsuit filed in April by the parents of one 15-year-old purported victim claimed the misconduct went on for at least a decade, asserted a “pervasive rape culture” existed in the school’s football program, and that the coaches knew about it. The complaint said the defendants did not report the incidents within the 48 hours required under Texas law, also suggesting the hazing was not reported to protect the football program.


The suit alleged that the suspects committed hazing, harassment, bullying, physical and sexual abuse against the plaintiff identified as “Child Doe.” It called these acts “sadistic hazing rituals which include rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration, and sexual abuse” and described an example where perpetrators allegedly held Child Doe face down and shoved a bottle into his anus over his shorts. It said he was sexually attacked five times. The plaintiffs seek a jury trial and ask for punitive and other damages for medical expenses, pain, anguish, and loss of wages.

Moreno, the high school principal, former athletic director and head coach, plus two additional athletic directors, and two coaches were named as defendants in the lawsuit. It asserted that La Vernia ISD lacked the policies, practices, and procedures to protect the student athlete. However, Moreno told KSAT he believes the school district had such protocols in place.

Still, he realized some may pass judgment on La Vernia ISD. Moreno cautioned other school districts to “assume nothing,” underscoring that something like this can happen to anyone. “Across the state of Texas and beyond, I think it’s always something that we should all, always be aware of and prepared for,” he said.

With the start of the new school year only weeks away, the high school has made several student safety changes including revamping the online bully reporting system, adding a full-time campus police officer, plus allocating more student time with school counselors and better teacher training. An ongoing internal investigation into the sex assaults continues.

The superintendent told KSAT he recognizes it will take time to rebuild trust with the district’s families and the community. He also acknowledged that some may never forgive the district for what happened yet he hopes for a fresh start. “We are going to be OK as we start moving forward,” said Moreno.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.


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By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; 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 current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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