Massachusetts court upholds students’ suspensions for participating in hazing on school basketball team
A superior court judge has declined to strip suspensions from the school records of two freshmen disciplined in a hazing scandal involving Andover High School basketball players, says the Eagle-Tribune. In total, seven students were disciplined; two ringleaders were expelled; and five others were suspended from school and athletics. The punishments were handed down after it was revealed in November 2011 that two “newcomers” were forced to engage in one of three humiliating sexual tasks or risk severe beatings while the players were attending basketball camp in July. A school report said the hazing, which involved students eating cookies covered in semen, was video-recorded by a team captain using a Smartphone.
Two freshmen filed suit against the school district to have three-day suspensions removed from their records. The students said they were bystanders to the degrading activities and were unaware they should report them to school officials. They both sought injunctions against the district preventing their suspensions from being revealed to colleges or future employers.
The students also said they were threatened personally, on Facebook, and by text after the hazing occurred at Hoop Mountain Basketball Camp held at Stonehill College in Easton. The incidents occurred before both students started classes at Andover High, said lawyer Andrew Zieberg. He and lawyer Alex Cain represent the students. Zieberg said both freshmen tried to comfort a friend after the “cookie incident” at Hoop Mountain.
Andover schools’ lawyer Jan Gould said Hoop Mountain was “not a school-sponsored event, but tied closely to the school’s basketball program.” When the hazing allegations surfaced in November, an investigation was conducted by Interim Principal Thomas Sharkey, she noted. “Clearly, this is conduct we have an interest in reaching … The reason for that is obvious. We need to control this type of behavior,” Gould said.
“This was a situation in which two newcomers to a particular camp were made to do certain things. Clearly, they were expected to do certain things in order to be accepted,” Gould said. She noted that the school handbook has clear anti-hazing and anti-bullying policies. “If students and families receive the message they can run into court and have this overturned, it loses it’s teeth frankly.”
David Fazio, Andover High head basketball coach, was also briefly placed on administrative leave while the hazing was investigated. Hazing is illegal in Massachusetts and those convicted face up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Anyone who witnesses hazing but does not report it faces a $1,000 fine under the state law.
Source: Eagle-Tribune, 1/18/12, By Jill Harmacinski
[Editor's Note: In January 2011, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Boston Globe reporting that a state auditor’s office review concluded that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MDESE) failed to monitor school districts’ compliance with the state’s anti-hazing laws, resulting in a checkered enforcement system across the state. The review focused on the state’s failure to monitor mandated reporting that has left it with no way to measure what works. State officials said that the reporting and monitoring of hazing is critical now, after Massachusetts officials have put so much effort into programs designed to combat bullying and harassment. The state’s anti-hazing law also came under the public spotlight in November 2010 when Needham school officials suspended 10 members of the girls’ soccer team for hazing.
In January 2012, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Sun Herald reporting that the parents of a former Picayune Memorial High School baseball player (MS) had filed suit alleging members of the team participated in a hazing ritual that left their son hospitalized after he was held from behind and punched in the chest. The suit claims that for at least two years, older baseball players have routinely singled out younger, smaller players and punched them “violently in the chest” before games.]