Mother: Maine West Hazing 'Destroying' Children

Attorney: Michael Divencenzo, of Maine West, common link in hazing reports in complaint.

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 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.”

Related: Maine West Parent ‘Sickened’ by Tolerance of Bullying

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Robi Schnetzer November 29, 2012 at 02:05 AM
As a student at Maine west and student of "Devo" hard to believe but hey it is what it is. Also if her son was humiliated on the bus might as well add Pace to the law suit seeing they provide the bus service to Maine West
calzone mcgee November 29, 2012 at 05:38 AM
I like the cut of your jib.
Mary Dalton November 29, 2012 at 03:31 PM
They still need to investigate. I would think the scandal at Penn State was enough of a cautionary lesson.
jsjs November 29, 2012 at 03:52 PM
I'm assuming it was the bus to the baseball game which would not be Pace but the rented school bus. This is all just making Maine West look so bad but glad to see they are trying to take some precautionary action. My daughter came home yesterday with an agreement that needed to be signed by her and a parent that said she would not participate in any hazing activities.
Harold Chasten November 29, 2012 at 04:21 PM
This kind of sedentary complacency is why things never change and they never get better. Where is the outrage? Where is the social responsibilty to protect all children from predators like this coach? Sexual assault on a child is something that should OUTRAGE a community.
Amy November 29, 2012 at 05:46 PM
The charges do not say the coach did it, but rather he knew about it. I am not saying that makes it any better the whole situation is bad, but this was children on children making bad choices. Where are the parents?
Kathy Plucinski November 29, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I CONCUR! This is an outrage - and needs to be stopped immediately at ALL schools!!!! No hazing anywhere!
Mary Dalton November 29, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Hang on -- there's no suggestion that the coach is himself a "predator." Watch your comments, Harold. Outrage doesn't do any good if it's random and irresponsible.
Mary Beth November 29, 2012 at 07:52 PM
As a parent of MW students, I am outraged. It is the responsibility of the school to provide a safe haven for all students. Whether any of the coaches participated, was aware of the hazing practices, or put students up to it, makes them culpable. That a parent reported an incident to administration as early as 2008 involving the same coach is not only concerning, it is deeply disturbing. Teachers, coaches, administrators are mandatory reporters of child abuse. If any incident was not reported and investigated, they have something to hide.
George K. November 29, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Your are so right Harold. They fail to realize the mob mentality of the students. It is our job as parents to protect our children and other children. It is this attitude by those above that ALLOW this to occur over and over again. Has not history taught those above anything? NEVER has someone been arrested for molesting children, had a neighbor come out and say--"GEE, I knew he was a molester"....they always say "he was the nicest guy in the world, helped me bring in my grocieries", come on people wake up!
Mary Dalton November 29, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I agree that coaches who allow hazing are culpable, and especially so any coach who allowed sexual abuse or rape to take place. But we've gone from focusing on the students who did this to accusing someone of being a "sexual predator" without any real evidence. Speculating and surmising doesn't make something true, and the kind of mob mentality that exists on forums like these can get in the way of productive community action. Anyone have an idea about what can actually be done to prevent these kinds of things? Maybe we should start by looking at ourselves as a culture and asking what kind of world we've created that our children do things like this. For the record, I'm both a mother of a boy and someone who herself went through childhood sexual abuse (so, yeah, it's personal).
George K. November 29, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I agree with you Mary...BUT, for this to happen with children under the care of a coach, someone at the very least, turned a blind eye. By turning a blind eye, is just as bad as standing there watching the abuse occur. Some people are just sick in the head, and we as a community should make sure that those that are responsible for the well being of our children, be held accountable for that responsibility. Once this occurs, you will see this type of abuse diminish very quickly.
Robi Schnetzer November 30, 2012 at 01:11 AM
That makes more sense haha. Didnt even think of that.
Robi Schnetzer November 30, 2012 at 01:13 AM
The Parents are at work paying for new soccer shoes and books that are hundreds of dollars.
Robi Schnetzer November 30, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Thank you.
Robi Schnetzer November 30, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Just because; will the district offer me a new diploma that states district 207 in lieu of Maine west?
Grumpy Old Man November 30, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Hard to believe that a High School.coach in this day and age in North Suburban Chicago hasn't gone through hours of seminars and training to avoid situations like this
Dave December 01, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Hours of seminars and training should not be required. Where is common sense and decency?
John L December 02, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Maybe after coming home from work and paying for the soccer shoes, they could spend a little time teaching compassion, kindness, and morality, as opposed to leaving them to their rooms to play Call Of Duty.
Jessie Villasenor December 03, 2012 at 02:09 PM
i think they are taking this hazing business a little overboard. Maine West is a great school and has shown many support towards others for loss of loved ones, support of achievements, goals we had reached. It's ridiculous how all of a sudden once a lawsuit it called out everyone gets involved..are people that desperate to get money and attention? News reporters are giving Maine West a bad rep when it is such an amazing school. I should know because i am a student. Other schools could be doing the same thing, the rumors out there are what you guys are assuming..kay im done
George K. December 04, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Jessie, thank god it was not ur kid who got rapped...seeing ur response only tells me u would of done nothing. Way to lead by example. Ur kid should b proud of u!


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