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Parents sue Maine West over alleged hazing by soccer players

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 9:42 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

(MCT) — The parents of a Maine West High School freshman filed a lawsuit Monday against officials and soccer coaches at the Des Plaines school, claiming that they sanctioned hazing of the teen that included physical and sexual assault.

The unidentified mother appeared in a baseball cap and sunglasses Monday during a news conference with her lawyer, Antonio Romanucci, at his Chicago law office.

"I thought my son would be safe at school," she said. "You think when you drop off your son, it's a safe place to be. But I feel like the coaches should have kept him safe on the soccer field, and they didn't do that."

The 14-year-old boy and his parents were not named in the lawsuit. It is Tribune policy not to identify the victims of alleged sexual assault.

The lawsuit contends that the teen was beaten and sodomized by a group of teammates during soccer practice Sept. 27. The suit says they tore off his pants and underwear while holding him down on the ground and beating him.

Two other players were similarly hazed, the lawsuit says, in what Romanucci alleges was part of a practice on the boys soccer team that goes back at least three years. The lawsuit asserts that Principal Audrey Haugan knew or should have known about the practice but did nothing to stop it, and that two soccer coaches witnessed and allowed the alleged hazing ritual.

"That behavior in today's society is disgusting," Romanucci said. "It should never be condoned. It should never have happened."

In addition to monetary compensation, the lawsuit calls for an injunction to end the alleged hazing ritual.

"We see this not just as a local issue, but this is a national issue," Romanucci said. "We hope to springboard what happened here into making significant policy change all over the country."

Six Maine West students were petitioned to juvenile court last week for misdemeanor charges of battery and hazing in connection with the incident, Des Plaines police Chief William Kushner said. He declined to provide details of the police investigation that led to the charges because the defendants are minors.

Maine Township High School District 207 suspended several players from the boys soccer team after the alleged hazing was reported to school officials Sept. 28. Spokesman David Beery said the district is taking disciplinary against 10 students. But he declined to elaborate on their punishments, citing student privacy policies.

The district also has removed five coaches from the soccer team pending the conclusion of the district's investigation. Two of them — Michael Divincenzo, head boys and girls varsity coach, and freshman boys coach Emilio Rodriguez — have also been placed on paid leave and "temporarily reassigned" from their teaching duties while the investigation continues, Beery said. The three other coaches did not teach at the school.

"District 207 and Maine West reiterate that we take the misconduct involving the soccer team very seriously," a statement released Monday said. Beery declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is also investigating the incident.

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