Maine Township school board votes to fire another coach amid hazing scandal
BY JON SEIDEL Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org January 24, 2013 10:06PM
Updated: February 26, 2013 6:33AM
The Maine Township school board voted Thursday to fire a second soccer coach swept up in a hazing scandal at the northwest suburban school district.
In calling for Emilio Rodriguez’s dismissal, the board stated in documents he was “not forthright” when he denied at a meeting in December he’d been told about the alleged initiation of a student — one that’s previously been described as a sexual assault.
“Your blanket denial that students reported these allegations to you is not plausible or credible in light of the statements of at least eight students that a student or students reported these allegations to you,” the board wrote in the documents it used to begin the process of firing Rodriguez.
That meeting occurred the day after the board voted to fire varsity soccer coach Michael Divincenzo, according to the documents. Now Rodriguez, like Divincenzo, is suspended without pay while their dismissal processes play out.
Rodriguez will have 17 days after being formally notified of the board’s decision to ask for a hearing where he could fight for his job. Divincenzo, who is also being disciplined over the hazing scandal, is already seeking a hearing.
Neither man has made a public comment about the allegations despite several requests from the Sun-Times. Rodriguez couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. Police reports show the men denied knowing about hazing at the school.
They also show Rodriguez said he was told some soccer players “got” another player on Sept. 26. When Rodriguez asked that player what happened, Rodriguez told police the player said others tackled him and tried to pull his pants down but didn’t get his underwear down. When Rodriguez asked the player if that’s all that happened, he said the player said yes.
The board’s resolution said Rodriguez was told at least two freshman soccer players were assaulted and sodomized that day with fingers or sticks as a form of hazing.
Meanwhile, in another move to combat allegations of a hazing culture at the Maine Township schools, the board voted to hire a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Sergio Acosta, to “scrutinize every aspect” of the hazing matter at $300 an hour. Cook County prosecutors and state child welfare officials are also investigating.
Acosta is a former chief of the general crimes section of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, according to his online biography.
The board also voted to hire a consultant to begin conducting focus groups regarding the hazing allegations, and it said in a statement it is also working toward launching an online system that would allow students to report bullying and hazing anonymously.
Tony Romanucci, a lawyer suing the school district over the hazing allegations, said he is glad to see it is “cleaning house.” However, he also told reporters before the board’s vote he thinks Maine West Principal Audrey Haugan is being protected as discipline is handed out.
Haugan is named along with Divincenzo and Rodriguez in Romanucci’s lawsuit. The attorney claims Haugan knew Divincenzo tolerated the alleged abuse of a student on a baseball team he coached in 2008 and took no action against him.
Haugan has declined in the past to speak about the allegations and couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.