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Suit: Football coaches videotaped hazing 14-year-old

A Northwest Side high school, two football coaches and four players were sued by the father of a 15-year-old boy who claims his son was beaten with belts in a hazing ritual videotaped by an assistant coach.

After the boy stopped participating in a practice session in October 2011 because rain was exacerbating his asthma symptoms, he was lured into a locker room by one of the coaches and beaten by the other players, the suit claims.

When he tried to escape the beating, the coach who lured him into the locker room stood between him and the only exit with his arms out, blocking the exit, the suit claims.

The suit was filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court by Jose Calderon against Prosser Career Academy, the Chicago Public Schools, Prosser coaches Tom Cipriani and Jonathan Manning, and four football players.

The same assistant football coaches and students were charged within a week of the incident with misdemeanor battery. Cipriani, then 47, and Manning, then 21, were also charged with battery and endangering the health or life of a child, police said. Manning was also charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly videotaping the incident.

The four charged students were 17 or 18, and the victim 14, at the time of the incident, police said.

It happened on Oct. 18, 2011, after a football practice at the school. It was raining and the victim began experiencing shortness of breath, so he sat out.

After practice, Cipriani lured the boy into the senior locker room, where the four older players began removing their belts, indicating they were preparing to strike him, the suit claims. After several attempts, the boy ran past Cipriani and escaped.

But when he went to the freshman locker room to change, the four players surrounded him, holding out their belts, and each took a turn striking and verbally taunting him while Cipriani looked on and Manning recorded video, the suit claims. Manning allegedly showed the video to others at the school on several occasions.

As a result of the incident, the boy has endured pain, embarrassment, depression, anxiety,and psychological damage, the suit claims. He left Prosser to attend another school.

The suit claims even before the incident, Cipriani and Manning regularly directed and encouraged student athletes to strike and whip others with belts as part of a hazing and bullying ritual they viewed as encouraging team building, discipline and camaraderie, the suit claims.

The suit says the school and school district knew or should have known about the prior incidents and protected the boy from such conduct.

It seeks damages of at least $50,000.

A statement from CPS said, “we cannot currently comment on any pending litigation. However, CPS is committed to providing a safe and welcoming school environment for all students. Issues of bullying and hazing are taken very seriously and are not tolerated by the District.”

Neither Cipriani nor Manning is listed on the Prosser website as continuing to work for the school.

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