Maine West High School Hazing, Sex Assault: More Families Join Lawsuit Against School District


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A total of four families have now joined a lawsuit against Maine Township High School District 207 alleging that their children were sexually assaulted during hazing rituals that were sanctioned by the coaches as a long-standing tradition at Maine West High School.

In a Wednesday news conference, attorney Tony Romanucci -- who is representing the families -- told reporters that the hazing incidents possibly go as far back as 2006 at the school, according to NBC Chicago, and that coaches at the school knew about what was happening.

"So many people have come forward based upon what we have so far," Romanucci said Wednesday, according to WBEZ. "I am having a hard time keeping up with all the phone calls.”

Last week, Romanucci filed suit against the district on behalf of one family who claimed that their 14-year-old and at least two other boys were sexually assaulted during soccer practice in September -- during school hours and condoned by coaches. The complaint alleged that teammates shoved the boys to the ground and beat them. The older players then held them down, pulled down their pants and underwear and sodomized them.

In response to the allegations, district officials said that 10 students are facing disciplinary actions and that the two soccer coaches named in the suit -- Michael Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez -- and three others have been temporarily reassigned with pay. Six students have been charged as juveniles with misdemeanor battery and hazing.

Since the initial suit was filed, three other families have joined, citing similar experiences at the school. The new plaintiffs include two additional soccer players and one baseball player who was also coached by Divincenzo. Romanucci claims he has also heard reports of similar hazing incidents in the school's swimming and water polo programs, WBEZ reports.

"What they did was wrong and continues to be wrong," Romanucci said Wednesday, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The mother of one of the Maine West students -- a baseball player -- allegedly assaulted in May 2008 spoke at the Wednesday news conference and said her son had been pinned against a row of lockers by a group of classmates before his pants and boxers were ripped down, exposing him multiple times. When she reported the incident to the principal, she claims it was "swept under the rug," NBC reports.

"Coach Divencenzo was amused by this, laughing, along with these kids, at my son," the woman said Wednesday, according to Patch. "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."

The Des Plaines Police Department was also told that Divincenzo not only knew about a recent hazing-related sexual assault at the school -- but that he watched it happen, the according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Per an Oct. 3 report to police by the school's principal:

He even allegedly congratulated the victim, welcomed him “and asked him if it was all good.”

The lawsuit seeks monetary and injunctive relief. Romanucci said they're also calling for a clean sweep of prior team customs, creating new rules to prevent repeat behavior.

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Cequan Haskins

School Bullying Incidents

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