Maine West probe costs district $115,000
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 5, 2013 9:17PM
Maine West High School in Des Plaines | Sun-Times files
Updated: August 8, 2013 6:56AM
An investigation into hazing allegations at Maine West High School cost the district about $115,000, according to records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The internal investigation, spearheaded by a former federal prosecutor, ultimately determined employees at the school and district handled the scandal appropriately after it broke in late September, according to a report released earlier this year. The investigation also led to recommendations the district have a “hazing action plan” and update its policies on bullying, harassment and hazing, among others.
Maine Township High School District 207 spokesman Dave Beery said Friday the district is “in the process of updating policies in response” to the independent investigator’s report.
The district enlisted attorney Sergio Acosta in January to delve into accusations of sexual abuse among members of the boys soccer team after officials voted to fire two coaches accused of sanctioning the so-called hazing.
Multiple soccer players came forward last fall to say they’d been sexually assaulted by teammates under the guise of hazing.
For work done between Jan. 25 through the end of February, Acosta’s firm, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, charged the school district nearly $74,000 for about 352 hours of work and other expenses, according to records.
From March to May, the firm charged the district $41,131 for about 197 hours of work and other expenses, records show. More than $37,000 of that was in March, the same month the school board was briefed in a closed meeting.
Acosta, who declined to comment, assembled a team of at least seven additional people that conducted interviews, reviewed documents and analyzed policies before producing the final report and recommendations, records show.
Beery on Friday did not immediately know if the recent bills had yet been paid by the district.
But the firm is finished with its work for the district, he said.
The report authored by Acosta and his team was publicly released in May, but it did not include “factual findings and related legal conclusions” because of the pending civil, criminal and personnel proceedings. The school board was briefed on those issues in the closed meeting.
The report released publicly said investigators found some school employees were “less than candid” in their answers to questions about what happened before multiple soccer players came forward to say they were sexually assaulted by teammates under the guise of hazing. However, Acosta’s report said it detected “no effort” by staff to cover up alleged incidents or influence any witnesses. It also said law enforcement officials investigating the hazing received all requested records and information from the district in a timely manner.
Since the report was released, the coach at the center of the scandal, Michael Divincenzo, has been charged with misdemeanor battery, hazing and failure to report abuse. The coach has denied guilt “of any kind.” He’s due back in court next month. Meanwhile, the charges against the six teens originally criminally accused were dropped.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of four unnamed players is ongoing.
Contributing: Jon Seidel