District 207 schools to require ‘anti-hazing pledge’
Updated: February 4, 2013 1:16AM
PARK RIDGE — Maine Township High School District 207 says all students and coaches will be required to sign an “anti-hazing pledge” in light of sexual assault allegations made by sports players at Maine West High School.
Two written statements dated Nov. 30, one attributed to Board of Education President Sean Sullivan and the other to Superintendent Ken Wallace, indicate that District 207 has developed an action plan following alleged criminal incidents described as “hazing” at Maine West in Des Plaines.
The plan calls for students and coaches to sign a pledge issued by the Illinois High School Association stating they will not engage in hazing practices.
District 207’s Student Discipline Handbook defines hazing as “initiating or disciplining fellow students by means of horseplay, practical joke or tricks; to harass by banter, ridicule or criticism; (or) to play abusive and/or humiliating tricks.”
The pledge that coaches will be asked to sign indicates that they will notify the athletic director or a building administrator if they witness or hear about any “hazing/initiation activities.”
The district also plans to launch a hotline allowing students to “report and find adult help on a variety of issues, including bullying and hazing.” It was not immediately known when this hotline will be established, according to District 207 Spokesman Dave Beery.
“In general, I’d say we’ll be moving as quickly as possible,” he said.
In addition, District 207 plans to conduct focus groups with administrators, staff, students and parents at each high school “to study policy, practice, climate and culture as it relates to bullying and hazing” and develop recommendations; review all district policies related to bullying and hazing to determine if any changes need to be made; implement additional, required staff training “to stress the importance of and ensure that staff are aware of mandated reporting duties;” and, with approval from the Board of Education, hire an independent investigator to analyze district policies, procedures and training.
In his letter to parents, Wallace wrote that while officials do not believe bullying and hazing is widespread among the district’s three high schools, “one student bullied or hazed is one student too many. Like students, educators must learn from everything, including difficult circumstances, and take steps to always get better.”
Three Maine West soccer players claim they were sodomized on the Des Plaines campus Sept. 27 as part of an initiation into the soccer team, according to a lawsuit filed against District 207 on behalf of two of those boys.
Police reports and an attorney for two of the players said their teammates pulled down the victims’ underwear and sodomized them with fingers and sticks.
The lawsuit also includes allegations of hazing on the soccer team in 2007 and the baseball team in 2008.~.
— Sun-Times Media contributed to this story.