Second Hazing Investigation at Maine West Opened

After a lawsuit alleging sexual assault and hazing of a student was filed last week, D-207 launched another investigation--this time into a hazing incident that reportedly took place in 2008. It involved a coach also named in this month's lawsuit.

OUTSIDE CHICAGO, IL -- After a parent brought a hazing and sexual assault lawsuit against a Des Plaines high school last week, a second family stepped forward to allege their child was the victim of hazing on a sports team at the school. 

The second family said their child was on the Maine West High School freshman boys' baseball team in 2008, when Michael Divincenzo was coach. D-207 has launched investigations into both sets of allegations.

The 2012 lawsuit, filed on Nov. 19, named Divincenzo, along with other administrators, faculty, staff and the high school district, as being the responsible adults in charge when the hazing took place in September 2012. Their child was on a soccer team.

On Monday, Nov. 26, Maine Township High School District 207, which operates Maine West, Maine East and Maine South High Schools, continued to respond to allegations of hazing. It released a statement that said:

District 207 became aware on Friday, November 16, 2012 that there was a spring of 2008 hazing incident that was brought to the attention of the Maine West High School Administration in August of 2008 by a parent of the alleged victim. The report stated that the event took place in the spring of 2008 on the Maine West freshman baseball team coached by Mike DiVencenzo. The students involved were interviewed by the school’s deans and had discipline consequences assigned. The incident involved at least four other freshman baseball players who are alleged to have pulled a teammate’s pants down in a school locker room.

When the mother of the victim contacted the Maine Township High School Superintendent’s office on Friday, November 16, 2012 the parent was interviewed by an Assistant Superintendent and then was subsequently reached by phone on multiple occasions by Superintendent Ken Wallace who sought to fully investigate the event. On Wednesday, November 21, the victim’s family informed Dr. Wallace that, on the advice of their attorney, they did not wish to speak to the District any further about the event.

District reported allegations to legal authorities

Wallace instructed district officials to immediately notify the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services regarding the incident in 2008, according to the statement. DCFS and D-207 have ongoing investigations into the incident in September 2012.

Regarding the incident in 2008, D-207 stated, “From the moment that the District became aware of any allegations it has insisted that the appropriate agencies be notified and it has cooperated fully with those agencies and their investigations while launching its own internal investigation to identify all involved and take appropriate disciplinary action.”

Read the entire statement, posted with this story, from Maine Township High School District 207 regarding a report of hazing at Maine West High School in 2008.

Lawsuit filed Nov. 19 named several administrators

The lawsuit filed Nov. 19 by Maine West parents stated their son was physically and sexually assaulted as part of a known hazing ritual for the boys’ varsity soccer team in September 2012. Divincenzo, varsity boys’ soccer coach, Audrey Haugan, principal at Maine West, Emilio Rodriguez, Maine Township High School District 207 and unknown faculty, coaches and staff are named in the complaint.

As a result of D-207’s investigation into the reported hazing incident in September 2012, disciplinary action was taken against 10 students, according to the statement, and two coaches, Divincenzo, 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.

There have been no similar accusations at Maine East or Maine South High Schools, said Dave Beery, District 207 communications director. 

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jsjs November 27, 2012 at 03:37 PM
The more and more I read about this incident the more and more disturbed I get. I can not believe that adults that are trusted to care for our children thought that this was an okay thing to tell children to do. Would they be okay with their own children being treated this way? It really upsets me that they are still being paid. Yes, I'm sure it's because it's under investigation and they are innocent until proven guilty but why were some coaches removed and others reassigned with pay? It happened and they were in charge. That is enough for them to lose their jobs. They made a huge mistake and should no longer work in any school setting. My daughter is currently on a sports team and I have to trust that none of this is going on. I now see someone from 2008 on the baseball team came forward. My son was on the freshman team in 2009. Now I feel I have to question him to see if anything happened to him when he was on the team a year later. I do feel bad that Dr. Haugan is being sued. I do not believe that she had any knowledge of this going on. Whey would she risk her career and school's reputation? She seems to be a very professional and proud principal and she has to also be sick over this incident. I hope everything gets figured out and people who deserve to be punished are. I also hope the poor students who were victimized can overcome this horrible incident.
Mary Beth November 27, 2012 at 05:28 PM
As the parent of both former and current Maine West HS students, I am equally disturbed by these allegations and confused regarding the distinction between 3 coaches 'removed from teaching responsibilities', while 2 were 'reassigned with pay'. I also recognize that we do not have all the information, and that while the investigation is pending, all are innocent until proven guilty. Yet, I fear this is the tip of the iceberg, and that more students, who may have feared retribution or intimidation in the past, may now come forward. Each day that a parent sends their child to school involves trust: a ceding of authority to the school system based on the assumption that the system will provide a safe and protective environment. This trust has been broken, most severely to the victims, but also to every parent and student and needs to be reestablished. I have respected Dr. Haugan's professionalism and compassionate leadership and would find it difficult to believe that she would protect such heinous behavior among any teachers or coaches. I hope this investigation is thorough and impartial and that all responsible parties are held accountable and pay the consequences for their actions. Most importantly, I hope all victims are given the opportunity to tell their story and given the help they so desperately need.
Kathleen Benischek November 27, 2012 at 05:48 PM
The individual is not important to the Principal, Not to the Coaches, and not to the parents of the children who abused another child if it is going to jeopardize the reputation of the school, the staff, or the district. I am very disturbed that this school, supposedly one of the top schools of the suburbs, has to be a place where children who are not only interested in sports, but GOOD AT IT, cannot have a chance to further their skills and their future because of being afraid to be alone in the locker room or to go to the proper leadership for help and be made to keep it quiet or simply told that they would take care of it. In reality, nothing is ever done. Nothing is ever done.
Kathleen Benischek November 27, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Hurray to the person who is suing the District for keeping a blind eye. IT IS SAD THAT THIS DID NOT COME TO LIGHT UNTIL A LAWSUIT THAT AFFECTS the REPUTATION OF THE FACULTY AND THE DISTRICT before actions will be taken and eyes opened. What I think should have happened in 2008, and every year since, is that at the beginning of the school year, a general assembly should be held in the auditorium or the gymnasium; wherever everyone fits, and the students should be taken through a skit that shows the different types of hazing and abuse (without actually doing it) and what they should do if they see it happening to someone else, have it happen to them, have it "almost" happen to them, and if they see a staff member who has turned a blind eye to an incident or an incident that almost happened, and if they go to a staff person, and exactly what they should do to protect themselves and the ones they are helping from future or immediate danger. It appears this is almost like being a defendant going against the mafia in that the victim has to fear for their safety and definitely for being brought to abuse verbally from others for coming forward, if they actually are given the opportunity to do so. Why is the victim continually victimized for not wanting to be the victim any more? This does not make sense.
MWBS November 27, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Free divo and all the players
Kathleen Benischek November 27, 2012 at 08:27 PM
I don't know what that means. Sorry.
Malta November 28, 2012 at 01:06 AM
In the end....people are basically animals no matter what sociatal mores and values are....it is basically "dog eat dog". And now the parents are sueing anyone they can...even if those persons had no knowledge of these events. As I said. Dog eat dog. And money becomes the ultimate goal....
peach petal November 28, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Why don't you people wait for the investigation before drawing conclusions?
common sense November 28, 2012 at 03:28 AM
there has already been an investigation: 6 kids were tried in juvenile court and no coaches were found to have any knowledge of any hazing...this is just overzealous parents trying to make a quick buck in civil courts
Malta November 28, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Exactly correct....anything to make some money.
R.J. Mayer November 28, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I don't believe that the coach knew everything and hazing has been going on forever. Money is the name of the game now a days - it's said but true. All of a sudden, others realize $$ might be involved and NOW they come forward? Please - times are tough - but come on...
Kathleen Benischek November 28, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Obviously no one close to you has been a victim of serious hazing. You think being sodomized is not a big deal? That is what the accusation is for the soccer team. I am sorry if you think it is all about money. I don't. I think it is about human dignity being violated. I was almost raped as a teenager by a gang of boys, but a car driving down the alley saved me because they all ran away and I was able to get myself together and run as fast as I could home before they caught up with me again. I said nothing. You know what happened? They raped other girls that may not have been raped if I had been courageous enough to go forward and tell what happened. I was threatened and I just pretended that I did not know what they were talking about. One of those boys was supposedly a friend of mine and he said he was afraid to stand up to me because there were 10 of them and one of him. Courage comes in many forms and so does cowardliness. I was a coward; others paid for it. So.... tell me again it is all about the money? So if hazing has gone on forever, when is it going to stop? It used to be pranks and now it is sexual. That is NOT okay. People have a right to be safe from not only sexual harassment, but also from sexual acts committed against them against their will. Anything to make a buck? How about if we "change" the way things are done, like having a coach in the locker room before and after practices and games to make sure it does NOT happen.
R.J. Mayer November 29, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I was date raped at 14. I'm sorry, I DO know what it is like... AND, have a family member who was accused of "standing by and doing nothing" at another high school in the area. So I do know first hand about standing up for yourself. The problem is everyone blames the coach. What about parenting?? Where are the values that parents should instill in children now a days?? What about teaching your child there is a line that is NEVER crossed??? What about warning your child of hazing - prior to entering sports and asking them to talk to you? They have the coach convicted already - not fair. I have a child who was in sports at Maine West during this time - and he claimed hazing did happen, like being pantsed - but nothing this extreme... And he was part of the team... Why would HE lie?
Kathleen Benischek November 29, 2012 at 03:48 AM
I totally agree with you. I am not aware of who is being attacked. I just think that the coach is responsible as well as the parents of the ones who did the hazing. As far as teaching our kids to avoid it, you are right, but it is not always possible to protect ourselves, especially if we are up against a crowd. I am sorry for your experience. It must have been awful. I am sure if you knew of a way to be protected from that you would have done anything to prevent it. But surely, your parents are not to blame for that. I know this is hard. Especially for the victims and the ones who stood by and are now paying the price along with the ones who are guilty. This is a sad, sad, situation. I am sure the kids told the coach that the kids were lying and since he/they were not there, there was no way to prove who was telling the truth and if it was exaggerated or not. I sure hope things are not as bad as they are saying. I sure hope that if it did get that out of hand that they have physical evidence as well, for the 2012 case. I am just so sad about the whole thing. It would be so much easier if people could just take responsibility for their own actions in the first place and think before they act. Thank you for bringing up some very important issues. I do not respect the people who lied and said they reported things to the proper authorities and then it did not happen, or that the matter was swept under the rug.
Quiet1 November 29, 2012 at 05:41 PM
I know nowadays it's immediately what people think whenever someone brings a lawsuit against others. It's sad that there are people out there that have abused the system and ruined it. However in this case I am so glad that students and parents are coming forward. I give tremendous credit to this mother who decided to sue. I believe in her mind she had no choice. It's not always about the money in your pocket, but about making sure justice is done. Blaming the parents? Really? There is no place for this sort of behavior in the schools or anywhere there are children that depend on adults to keep them safe. Of course as parents we have a responsibility to raise our kids and make them aware of the dangers out there in the world and to be responsible citizens. However being part of a team is like being part of a family. It should be safe. I for one had no clue that when I sent my child to school and he went to practice I was putting him in danger. I thought it was all about belonging, being part of a team, and developing athletic ability. It's really sad that it has to come to this. Whether or not these coaches/teachers thought it was all in fun, they might need a little refresher about what fun is. I applaud this mother for having the courage to do what she is doing and I wish her son and the rest of the victims well.
Kathleen Benischek November 29, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I simply meant that the parents who were covering it up instead of making their children take responsibility were wrong. I was responding to the comments before this one about saying it is the parents' responsibility to teach their children how to avoid hazing. I think the parents should try but I also think that in one of the general assemblies that usually happen in every school at the beginning of the year, (at least I think they do) it should be addressed and stressed as to the fact that it will not be tolerated and what someone should do if they are the victim or see someone becoming the victim or being the victim and still feel safe when doing so.
peach petal November 30, 2012 at 02:30 AM
It's disgusting! It seems like a witch hunt! My kids graduated from MW, they both knew the coaches and I met one of them, they are great coaches and teachers who love their jobs. It's not fair for their names to be put out there for people to go drawing their own conclusions when they don't know them!
Kathleen Benischek November 30, 2012 at 02:41 AM
I agree that the names should not be spread around, but just sticking to the facts. Also, I just wish this would just accomplish setting a standard to prevent future problems. There is a verse in the Bible that says, "Let not your good be evil spoken of". The only way that can be done is to put up boundaries that cannot be broken through, kind of like a wall or a fence; not literally of course.
Mary Beth November 30, 2012 at 06:15 PM
While it is crucial to wait for evidence from a complete investigation, there are certainly enough allegations to warrant concern. Where there is smoke, there is fire. Something happened, no doubt. To summarily dismiss these parents' motives as purely monetary is naive and disparaging. While the victims' names are currently withheld, they will eventually have to testify. What parent would put their child through hell based on false allegations for a few bucks? It is not uncommon, after one assault has been publicized, for others to step forward. They were no doubt reluctant to come forward due to humiliation, fear of retribution, isolation and fears of not being believed. There is strength in solidarity and the outrage felt when learning that this behavior has not been stopped. While we all would like to believe that we have the safety and well being of our children at the forefront, not all parents have the strength and savvy it takes to sue. The mother from the 2008 incident thought she did what was best for her son by putting her concerns in writing and having her son transferred. I cannot imagine the horror and indignation that she felt when learning that 4 years later, this behavior has not stopped but has escalated. There are greater purposes to lawsuits than just money. If I were the parent of any of these kids, the least of my concern would be money, but insuring that any and all involved were punished, and that this never happen again. Time will tell.
peach petal December 01, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Where is the proof that the coaches knew about the hazing? All hearsay and everyday there's a picture of Divo in the paper! What about his family? Nobody has the right to do this to the coaches and this should be no reflection on MW faculty, it shows that parents are asleep at the wheel, until something comes up that they could potentially profit from.
Dick John December 04, 2012 at 11:19 PM
The parents are not to blame. They put their children in a sports program provided by the school and supervised by faculty. Unfortunately, the staff is immature and unprofessional. I don't know the MW faculty or coach Divo, however I do know for something like that to happen on school grounds under his supervision is disgusting, immoral, and unethical. Where is his integrity? Does the district evaluate its staff before they are hired? Evidently not.


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