Thursday, February 2, 2017
Lake Zurich High HAZING Included FORCED SEX ACTS
Members of the Lake Zurich High School football team routinely used sexual assault and acts of degradation to haze teammates while coaches and administrators ignored the abuse, according to a federal lawsuit filed by two alleged victims.
Antonio Romanucci, a Chicago attorney representing two former members of the 2016 football team, said the hazing goes back at least 20 years and remained hidden because of " 'Lord of the Flies'-type tactics" that kept participants and victims quiet.
"They were brutally mocked, teased, humiliated, embarrassed and emotionally harmed, all in the name of team bonding," Romanucci said at a Wednesday news conference.
The lawsuit adds another act to a drama that has played out since two Lake Zurich football coaches were placed on administrative leave for unstated reasons before a November playoff game.
Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 soon revealed it was looking into "inappropriate activity" that happened in the locker room after a football team dinner in late October. Lake Zurich police and the Lake County State's Attorney's office also investigated but declined to bring charges. A probe by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is ongoing.
Authorities have routinely refused to say what allegedly happened in the locker room, blacking out sections of police files and omitting the details from a report written by the district's outside law firm. While the lawsuit also redacts some passages describing the alleged acts, it says one boy was hazed in the shower and the other induced to perform an unspecified act on another player.
Broadly speaking, though, the lawsuit alleges some players have urinated on other members of the team, slapped them in the face with their genitals and forced teammates to perform oral sex on each other. Debasing acts have been part of a tradition known as "(Expletive) of the Week," in which the names of targets were written on a prominently mounted locker room whiteboard, the lawsuit claims.
"(Social) pressure and bullying at such events is so severe that even unwilling participants are forced to take part in acts that are assaultive, illegal and often sexual in nature," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that other acts, stretching back to 1997, have included players being stripped naked, punched in the genitals or sodomized with broomsticks. Other teams had their own traditions within the same time period, the lawsuit alleges, from cross-country runners being duct-taped naked to a post to wrestlers punching and kicking their teammates in what was known as a "birthday beatdown."
District 95 administrators declined comment on the lawsuit but pointed to policies enacted or outlined since the scandal broke in November. They include hazing prevention programs, tighter locker room supervision and the creation of a tip line to report hazing or bullying.
"The district is committed to creating a positive culture that does not tolerate hazing of any kind," administrators said Wednesday in a statement.
Romanucci said he had little faith in that initiative.
"I don't trust that (the district will enforce an anti-bullying program) until a court tells them that they have to do it," he said.
The lawsuit seeks to require anti-hazing training for district coaches, teachers and staff; educational assemblies for students; and the establishment of a database to track hazing and bullying complaints. It also seeks damages in excess of $50,000.
Aside from the school district, the lawsuit names as defendants former head coach David Proffitt, former assistant coach and dean of students Chad Beaver, volunteer coach William Stutzman, Athletic Director Rolando Vazquez, Superintendent Kaine Osburn and several unnamed school coaches.
Proffitt and Beaver, the coaches placed on leave, resigned earlier this month. Vazquez has given notice that he will resign at the end of the school year. Beaver could not be reached for comment; Vazquez referred questions to a district spokeswoman.
Proffitt said via text Wednesday evening: "We have always tried to do the right thing in preparing (players) for life's challenges, while keeping them and the program's best interest at heart."
He later added: "In the 11 years I have been at LZ, anytime we felt that a player was being humiliated in any way what so ever, we stopped it & made sure those involved understood the wrong in what they were doing."
Regarding claims that alleged hazing included forced oral sex, Proffitt said: "Never did I know of anything like that taking place. ... I am amazed that because of one or two individuals' claims, the whole program & coaches are given a black eye."
Tribune reporter Duaa Eldeib contributed.