Repeated hazing incidents captured on video have tanked the football season at Middletown Area High School in central Pennsylvania.
Cellphone video taken by players on Aug. 11 shows “a group of students restraining two of their teammates and using a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment to poke the buttock areas of the students who were on the ground,” Middletown Area School District Superintendent Chelton Hunter said Monday in his first letter to the community about hazing on the football team. The players were fully clothed in the incident, which took place in the team’s “heat acclimation room.”
The players involved were kicked off the team after the district’s initial investigation, which also led to the resignation of the head football coach. At that point, the district decided not to cancel the season because of the impact that would have on players who did not take part in the hazing as well as on the marching band and cheerleading team.
A few days later, after the district received another video of a separate hazing incident in the same facility, the season was officially canceled. “Unfortunately, this video demonstrates that this hazing was much more widespread, and involved many more students, than we had previously known,” Hunter said Wednesday in his second message to the community.
“We know we must work to address the culture of this team, educate our student body about hazing, and put programs in place to help us ensure that this kind of atmosphere is never allowed to exist in our school facilities,” Hunter wrote.
All of the videos have been shared with local police. The school’s athletic director is now seeking alternative activities for the marching band and cheerleading squad.
Hazing allegations hit other teams
Hazing has also disrupted football season for two other Pennsylvania high schools and at least one in Virginia. Administrators at Athens Area High School were notified on Aug. 20 of “several incidents … related to hazing, bullying and improper behavior that has caused physical and emotional harm to several student-athletes,” Craig J. Stage, superintendent of the Athens Area School District, wrote on Facebook.
While administrators do not currently plan to scrap the season, both the district and Pennsylvania State Police are now investigating reports of hazing that date back to a football camp at Bloomsburg University, which is also in Pennsylvania, Stage explained. Any students or staff involved will be disciplined and all other coaches and players have been required to participate in hazing- and bullying-prevention training immediately. “We will not be canceling any football games,” Stage said. “We do not feel that it is necessary to take punitive action against football players who did not participate in these incidents, [or] the marching band and cheerleaders who also perform at football games.”
Football has been paused at Mohawk Jr/Sr High School in western Pennsylvania while administrators investigate reports of hazing, WTAE.com reported this week.
And in Virginia, hazing allegations have led authorities to postpone football games and cancel practices at Mechanicsville High School in Hanover County Public Schools, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. The investigation was sparked by an anonymous tip received by the local sheriff’s office, according to the Times-Dispatch.