The parents of a Maine West High School student filed a lawsuit on Nov. 19 that accuses the school district, faculty and staff of allowing their son to be physically and sexually assaulted as part of a known hazing ritual for the boys' varsity soccer team.
The hazing ritual was ordered and witnessed by several coaches, according to the complaint, when, on Sept. 27, Michael Divencenzo, varsity soccer coach, Emilio Rodriguez, freshmen soccer coach, and other coaches ordered a “campus run” after the freshman soccer player was promoted to the varsity squad.
During the “campus run” the boy’s teammates grabbed him, 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.
There have been no similar accusations at Maine East or Maine South High Schools, said Dave Beery, District 207 communications director.
Lawsuit names principal, coaches
Audrey Haugan, principal at Maine West, Emilio Rodriguez, Michael Divincenzo, Maine Township High School District 207 and unknown faculty, coaches and staff are named in the complaint.
As a result of an investigation by Des Plaines police, six Maine West students were petitioned to juvenile court for various offenses, Deputy Chief Nick Treantafeles stated in an email to Patch. Treantafeles stated that because the investigation involved juveniles, no other information would be released.
Two other investigations occurring
In addition to the investigation by police, two other investigations related to the reported hazing incident at Maine West are ongoing.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and Maine Township High School District 207 are each working on investigations as well.
Maine Township High School District 207 released a statement regarding the lawsuit which stated administrators had not seen the lawsuit yet, but, in any event, would not have any public comment on pending litigation.
District 207 and Maine West “take the misconduct involving the soccer team very seriously,” according to the statement.
After receiving the initial report on Sept. 28, the school district and high school gave all relevant information to the Des Plaines Police Department and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, according to the press release.
District 207 disciplines two coaches, 10 students
As a result of D-207’s investigation into the matter, disciplinary action was taken against 10 students, according to the statement, and two coaches, Michael Divincenzo, varsity soccer coach, and Emilio Rodriguez, freshmen soccer coach, were relieved of their coaching and teaching duties, were temporarily reassigned, with pay, pending the conclusion of the investigation. Three coaches who were not Maine West teachers, were removed from their coaching responsibilities, the school district stated.
Plaintiffs want school to end hazing
Antonio Romanucci, of Romanucci & Blandin, the law firm representing the parents, said the complaint seeks monetary damages, but, more importantly, it seeks injunctive relief against the school district and the high school.
“We want permanent change to take effect so that this conduct never occurs again,” Romanucci said. “There has to be significant oversight in the school district so that this type of sanctioned conduct doesn’t happen again.”
Parents send their children to school, and they should feel safe about it, Romanucci said.
“It’s supposed to be a good thing, and instead, the child went here and got hurt,” Romanucci said. “If a parent can’t send a child to a school feeling that comfort level, why are we doing it then, with adults on the field?”
The complaint lists six changes to policies and procedures of D-207 and Maine West including that the school district be required to implement mandatory training programs related to hazing and bullying for faculty, staff, coaches and students, and the school district to be required to adopt policies with guidelines for teachers, coaches, staff and district employees about how to address hazing, bullying and violence.
When asked if there had been any changes made in Maine West’s athletic department as a result of the school district’s investigation into the reported hazing incident, Beery, the spokesman for D-207, said he could not confirm any changes had been made at this time.
“That’s something we may address at some point, but that’s not something I’m prepared to address today,” Beery said.