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Editorial: Hazing doesn’t happen if adults do their jobs

Michael Divicenzo

Michael Divicenzo

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Updated: June 18, 2013 7:28AM

Hazing in high school athletics, whether relatively minor or rising to the level of criminal assault, happens only when adults fail at their jobs.

In a healthy culture of student sport, principals and coaches send a constant message that every athlete is to be treated with dignity and respect, from the longest bench-sitter to the biggest star. Behavior that falls short of that standard is spotted and dealt with — and nobody looks the other way.

That didn’t happen at Maine West High School — this much is clear.

Too many student athletes have told too many stories that reveal a dangerous culture of hazing and abuse, even as it remains the work of school administrators and the courts to judge the merit of specific allegations. Sun-Times reporters Becky Schlikerman and Jon Seidel have been in the lead on this story.

On Wednesday, a former Maine West soccer coach, Michael Divincenzo, was charged by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office with multiple misdemeanor counts involving the battery and hazing of players on his team.

He is accused of sanctioning a hazing culture that allegedly led to the sexual assault of at least three soccer players and a baseball player by other student-athletes.

Last December, the school board fired Divincenzo, with the board president concluding that Divencenzo had failed to “adequately prevent, recognize, report and punish student hazing.”

Divencenzo has only been charged, which is a far cry from a conviction. We cannot stress this enough.

We also should stress this: A culture of abuse within an institution — whether a high school, a university or a church — is never the work of one person alone.

It is always, by failures of commission and omission, the work of many.

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