Education

These High School Football Players Have Been Charged With Assault During Hazing Ritual

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Three seniors at a Philadelphia-area high school have been charged with assaulting another student in the locker room during a hazing ritual called “No-Gay Thursday.”

The student, a football player, was allegedly held down by two other football players while a third player penetrated him with a broom handle at Conestoga High School. Three players were all 17 at the time of the incident, which happened last fall, and have been charged as juveniles with with assault, unlawful restraint, making terroristic threats, and related offenses, according to Philly.com.

The survivor of the assault told his father what happened, and the father reported it to the school in February. Unfortunately, this is not the first time prosecutors have looked into incidents at the school. Three boys allegedly sent sexually explicit photos of a 13-year-old student last fall as well.

According to Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan, “No-Gay Thursday” is a hazing ritual that involves incidents such as students in upper grades forcing students in lower grades to take off most of their clothes and clean the locker room. The older students would place their genitals on other students’ heads. The football coaches have denied any awareness of these hazing rituals.

Despite these details, the district attorney told Philly.com that when it comes to the crimes the players are charged with, “from our perspective, it’s a physical assault and not a sex crime.” He also said the survivor and his family were consulted before charging the the three players.

Sadly, this kind of behavior is not uncommon. In January, a Tennessee high school student on the basketball team was sodomized with a wooden pool cue, which caused his colon and bladder to rupture. Three players were also charged in this attack, except in this case, they were charged with aggravated rape and assault. The head coach, assistance coach, and athletic director were also charged for failing to report instances of child abuse; the attack was considered part of an ongoing pattern of hazing and violence.

During the same month, a 19-year-old student in Washington state, who played on the school’s basketball team, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that he had been sexually assaulted twice as part of hazing rituals beginning right before his freshman year of high school.

Some former athletes are speaking out about a culture of “physical, mental and sexual abuse” in sports, including Pat Smith, a former semi-pro baseball player, who released a video on Facebook to send the message that these incidents should not be tolerated. Intervention from public figures in sports is important given how prevalent the hazing culture is — 47 percent of students starting college have gone through hazing in high school or junior high, according to a national study by StopHazing.org. The consequences of these assaults on survivors can be devastating, especially in the case of Jordan Preavy, a student at Milton High School in Vermont, who took his life in 2012, a year after being sodomized with a broomstick by other football players.