Investigator: Maine West handled hazing allegations appropriately
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters May 9, 2013 1:02PM
Updated: June 11, 2013 6:28AM
An investigator, paid more than $73,000 to look into hazing allegations at Maine West High School, found employees at the school and district handled the scandal appropriately after it broke in late September, according to a report released Thursday.
However, the report said 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.
The claims led to misdemeanor charges for six teenagers, an ongoing review by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and a lawsuit filed on behalf of four unnamed players by Chicago lawyer Tony Romanucci alleging abuse dating back to 2007.
After the report was released Thursday, Romanucci blasted it in a written statement.
“The findings and conclusions of this report fail to shed light on the true issue in this case, which is why employees at Maine West High School failed to take any action to prevent the vile hazing rituals and abuse to underclassmen at Maine West High School for at least five years,” said Romanucci, whose lawsuit also targets Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan.
In fact the report, written by former federal prosecutor Sergio Acosta and his team, said 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 a closed board meeting on March 20.
The allegations have so far claimed the job of former varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo, who is no longer fighting the school board’s vote to fire him last December. The board also voted to fire freshman soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez, but he is fighting his termination.
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.
It said the district should have a “hazing action plan,” update its policies on bullying, harassment and hazing and alter athletic eligibility participation requirements and offer specific behavior standards for students.
“The board is pleased to learn that administrative employees at both the building and district office levels responded appropriately to the hazing allegations,” said school board president Margaret McGrath in a written statement.