Allegations continue to emerge in reports of hazing and bullying on Maine West High School athletic teams.
Three plaintiffs were added to a lawsuit Wednesday which names D-207 administrators, faculty, coaches and staff. Four families, three involving soccer players and one involving a baseball player, have made accusations.
The mother of the student who was reportedly assaulted in May 2008 while on the baseball team spoke to reporters with her attorney, Antonio Romanucci, about why she joined the suit at the law firm’s Chicago office on Wednesday.
The woman's identity was being witheld to protect the identity of the student.
The woman said her son was pinned against the lockers in the locker room by a group of children, his pants were ripped down, his boxers were repeatedly ripped down, and he was exposed repeatedly by numerous members of the team. She said her son was also humiliated on bus rides, and she went to Maine West High School at the time to speak with officials about the incidents.
“Coach [Michael] Divencenzo was amused by this, laughing, along with these kids, at my son,” the woman said. “The following day after the incident happened, my son heard some of the other boys talking in the locker room during gym that Coach Divencenzo had put them up to doing this to him.”
She wrote a letter to Audrey Haugan, principal at Maine West, regarding the bullying and hazing, in August 2008, and had her son transferred to Maine East High School in Niles in fall 2008.
When the lawsuit involving the soccer team hazing incident in September was filed in November, D-207 stated there were no similar hazing reports.
This prompted the mother of the former Maine West baseball player to contact Haugan and D-207 officials on Nov. 16, the woman said.
Romanucci said Divencenzo was a common link between the four plaintiffs in the complaint.
“He is a common person in all four of those,” Romanucci said.
In D-207’s statement regarding the 2008 incident released on Monday, officials stated when the parent contacted them on Nov. 16, that was the first they had heard of it, and they then notified the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Romanucci said transferring a student was a district issue.
“If he was given a transfer, the school district is now telling you that they didn’t know about it? Not true,” Romanucci said.
Or, someone at the school level withheld information or misled the district, Romanucci added.
Romanucci said he had been in communication with someone within the school who was giving him information that hazing was an ongoing problem at Maine West, and that it extended to other athletic teams, though no plaintiffs connected with those teams were part of this complaint.
“[It is] the same sort of conduct that we’re talking about here, where children on children are doing things of a sexual nature to each other,” Romanucci said.
Romanucci said he received so much information, and so many people came forth so far, that he has had a difficult time keeping up with the phone calls.
The original complaint about the incident on Sept. 27 stated Divencenzo, varsity soccer coach, Emilio Rodriguez, freshmen soccer coach, and other coaches ordered a “campus run,” according to court documents, after the freshman soccer player was promoted to the varsity squad.
During the “campus run” the boy’s teammates grabbed the boy, according to the complaint, tore off his underwear, held him down so he could not resist, grabbed his testicles and sodomized him with their fingers and other foreign objects. The lawsuit is attached to a previous story.
“Any child who is physically abused, sexually abused, assaulted [in] any way, emotionally abused, suffers the rest of their life,” the woman speaking Wednesday said. “The impact and the toll it takes on them as a human being and what it does to them on a daily basis, and how they suffer, is unwarranted by anybody, and no one deserves that. And what’s important is that these men, these schools, these people that are supposed to be responsible for the welfare of our children are taking part in ripping our children apart, destroying them systematically, and it needs to come to an end. My son was one too many.”