A lawsuit filed Wednesday morning alleges that coaches and officials at Lake Zurich High School in northern Illinois allowed “acts of hazing and bullying to occur within the team locker room, including forcing teammates to strip naked and forced un-consensual sexual assault.”
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Antonio Romanucci on behalf of two anonymous Lake Zurich students and their parents, alleges that wrestling, cross country, and football coaches at the high school engaged in, encouraged, and permitted physical, mental, and sexual abuse in the form of bullying over the past 20 years. Per NBC Chicago, the District 95 superintendent Kaine Osburn wrote the following in a letter to parents a week ago:
“The last twelve weeks have been challenging for many students and others in our community,” District Superintendent Kaine Osburn said in a letter to parents last week. “My administration has done its best to balance the safety and rights of our students and staff with the need to thoroughly examine how we can foster a culture and climate that prevents hazing and other unhealthy behaviors, all while attempting to communicate in a transparent manner. I accept responsibility for any failures in this regard, but rest assured my full and earnest dedication is and always will be to the safety of our students and the knowledge that we must do what is necessary to build a healthy foundation for growth.”
The lawsuit was borne of an alleged incident that occurred in September 2016, when, according to the lawsuit, members of the Lake Zurich football team forced a teammate to strip naked and stand in the shower while they urinated on him; the suit states that at least 14 teammates watched.
When the child’s parents spoke with then-assistant coach and dean of students Chad Beaver, the Lake Zurich employee is reported to have told them the incident was “not a big deal.” Adding that players peeing on each other “happens all the time” and saying, “even I got peed on in high school.”
A second incident involving a another player occurred less than a month later on Oct. 26, according to the suit. Following a group pasta dinner, the team went back to the locker room where it conducted a “roast,” also known amongst the team as “Asshole of the week.” The plaintiff’s name was drawn from a hat along with two of his teammates; two of the players were then told to perform a sexual act on one of the three—the specific action is redacted in the lawsuit. A private security guard hired by the school is alleged to have witnessed the action but did not intervene; he notified Beaver the following day, Oct. 28, the same day of the school’s first-round playoff game.
No player was withheld from participating in either of the Lake Zurich playoff games, which took place Oct. 28 and Nov. 5. According to the lawsuit, School administration did not notify the police until Oct. 31; the Lake Zurich High School principal was not notified until Nov. 1. Parents were informed of the second incident involving the first plaintiff on Nov. 3; the second plaintiff’s abuse was not discussed at the time.
Lake Zurich athletic director Rolando Vasquez, varsity head coach and gym teacher David Proffitt, and Beaver all resigned in January 2017; Beaver and Proffitt had previously been placed leave since Nov. 4. While speaking with the Daily Herald, Proffitt denied involvement in the hazing.
“I have no idea what they are talking about,” he said of the lawsuit’s claims. “That is not true, at least from my perspective. I cant speak for other coaches, though.”
The lawsuit requests both families be financially compensated upwards of $50,000 and asks the school to set up a monitoring and prevention system so as to prevent future cases of bullying and physical and sexual assault.
In addition to the cases of the two plaintiffs, the lawsuit alleges numerous other examples of hazing, bullying, and abuse under the section “Factual Allegations.” The lawsuit claims coaches have been aware of the practices for at least 19 years, and have participated in “Birthday Beatdowns,” which is defined as a tradition in which “coaches and students would beat, kick, chase, punch, and harass the birthday person.”
Per the lawsuit, the following instances of hazing, bullying, and abuse have routinely occurred at Lake Zurich High School since 1998:
a. Upon information and belief, members of the boys’ cross country team repeatedly duck-taped teammates naked to the post, a hazing tradition of the team;
b. Upon information and belief, members of the wrestling team were tied naked towrestling dummies in a tradition of hazing; and,
c. Upon information and belief, members of the wrestling team participated in atradition called “Birthday Beatdowns” in which coaches and students would beat,kick, chase, punch, and harass the birthday person.
It goes on to state that the following actions have been a part of the football team’s annual traditions during the same timespan:
a. Football team members being stripped and locked into lockers naked;
b. Football team members placing their genitals on another member’s face without consent;
c. Multiple football team members urinating on another member without consent in the shower area;
d. Football team members shoving broomsticks into the anus’ of another member without consent;
e. Football team members punching another member’s genitals;
f. Football team members beating another member and then placing their genitals on their face or urinating on them once the member was on the ground; and,
g. Football team members being targeted for not showering on the premises.
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You can read the full lawsuit below.