Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Carmel hazing update: 1998 revisited, and time to take off the tinfoil hat

with 4 comments

The other day I noted that at Carmel (Ind.) High School, center of criminal investigations into alleged violent and sexual crimes into two separate hazing incidents involving the boys basketball team, had a similar situation pop up in 1998: three senior swimmers accused of harassing, beating and sexually assaulting a freshman teammate in what may or may not have been a case of hazing. I also noted that I couldn’t find any record of what happened to the alleged victim’s lawsuit against the school district and the swimmers.

WISH-TV in Indianapolis got a hold of the court documents and found the boy’s attorney. (Thanks to the intrepid Your Kid’s Not Going Pro reader who tipped me.) Tonight (March 5) the station aired a report that while a bit over the top in linking the swimming incident to the basketball incident — hey, it was 12 years ago, and none of the administrators overseeing (or not) things then are not the ones overseeing things (or not) now — do provide some disturbing parallels into how these incidents happen, and get so out of control. Most disturbing, perhaps, to those who want to see Carmel’s basketball players, coaches and school administrators hanging in the courtyard at dawn is how the 1998 case ended up being resolved.

[youtubevid id=”CNvef2Zk9q0″]

Actually, the most direct parallel is with the three seniors being investigated for assaulting two freshman teammates Jan. 22 on a bus trip back from a game in Terre Haute, a 100-mile trip. Like in that case, the victim apparently never stepped forward for whatever reason (in the swimmer’s case, fear that no one would believe three well-liked teammates would do such a thing), and the apparent assaults came to light only when the victim was injured badly enough to go to the hospital, which reported the injuries to the state’s Child Protective Services division.

In each case, coaches and administrators initially appeared to either not believe the victim or failed to appreciate the gravity of the situation. According to WISH-TV, the swimming coach told the freshman, when he complained, to tough it out, that a little “horseplay” was part of being a freshman. In the basketball case, Carmel principal John Williams went on television — WISH-TV, to be exact — to note that, even after a police report on the alleged assault was released, “I’m still pretty comfortable with what happened on that bus and our knowledge of what happened on that bus.” Depending on how the case develops, that sentence could be his career epitaph. (After all, the three seniors were suspended from school and the team for whatever happened on that bus.)

[youtubevid id=”JaJ2-iTVlTI”]

However, Williams might be OK in the end. In the swimming case, then-coach Tony Young was charged with failing to report a crime — but those charges eventually were dismissed. The swimmers never faced criminal charges. The lawsuit against the school and the swimmers, filed in 2002, was settled for an undisclosed amount soon before trial was scheduled to begin, according to WISH-TV.

One incident in 1998 and another in 2010 do not a pattern of violent hazing behavior make. However, each case shows a common pattern in any school where such an incident emerges: victims are afraid to speak out, coaches don’t want to hear it, and administrators are either left in the dark, intentionally or by their own desire to not hear anything they will have to recite later in a deposition.

That’s why I’m calling for everyone across these Internets who are screaming cover-up to can it. Hazing cases are notoriously difficult to investigate, because you have a lot of potential witnesses, and you have a lot of people who don’t want to say what they’ve seen. (A reason cited as to why the prosecutor in Grand Rapids, Mich., elected not to file criminal charges in a hazing case involving a high school cross country team.)

No doubt, the authorities in Carmel don’t want a bruise on the Indianapolis suburb’s well-polished image as a high-class, desirable place to live. But if no charges end up being filed, if no coach or administrator loses his or her job, it will be a testament to police and administrative incompetence and/or witnesses refusing to say exactly what they know.

On the other hand, those across these Internets, including Carmel’s own city attorney, who are screaming about how the mean ol’ media is attacking the Bestest City in the Universe and harassing poor, innocent high school kids also need to can it. Without the media attention, it’s doubtful there would be a police investigation in the first place. Maybe that’s what those screamers wanted. If there’s any “cover up,” it’s going to come from community pressure to get basketball players and other witnesses not to talk, not an orchestrated campaign by the police.

(Oh, by the way, Carmel lost at home tonight in its own sectional to neighboring Indianapolis ‘burb Westfield, so everybody’s season is over, not just that of the four seniors.)

Advertisements

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. This is a disturbing post, Bob. As you point out, it’s difficult to establish the truth in these situations, and so prosecutions are uncommon. On the other hand, while prosecutions might deter coaches and school officials from tolerating hazing in the future, they probably do little good–and may even do harm–to the students who are the victims of hazing. Figuring out how to help them is an even more difficult problem.

    Paul Raeburn

    March 6, 2010 at 3:20 am

  2. You write:

    Carmel principal John Williams went on television — WISH-TV, to be exact — to note that, even after a police report on the alleged assault was released, “I’m still pretty comfortable with what happened on that bus and our knowledge of what happened on that bus.”

    I’m not going to let my sick mind say more, but the fact that he says he’s “comfortable with what happened” is disturbing.

    Whether or not the seniors who assaulted the freshman are ever brought to justice is yet to be seen. I have two CHS students and let me assure you… the kids at school KNOW WHAT HAPPENED and they know IT HAPPENED. If the seniors walk, it will be another 10 years before another incident of hazing or bullying is ever reported again because they will see that when you report it, NOTHING HAPPENS. And worse, you become the outcast. And in high school, being an outcast sucks, especially when all you really want to do is play a sport.

    No parent in this community should “be comfortable” with our prinicipal saying that “he’s comfortable” about what happened on that bus.

    School board meeting Monday night. Closed door session at 6 followed by an open meeting @ 7. Arrive early to get a seat.

    allthatjazz

    March 6, 2010 at 3:09 pm

  3. It’s similar to trying to figure out the best way to solve bullying, the nonathletic version. The difficulty is figuring out how to stop the problem while not causing further harm to the victim. (Restraining orders seem to work the same way.) At the least, it would seem that schools would have to make clear they have no tolerance for the activity. Of course, it would help if they knew the parents would back them up.

    Bob Cook

    March 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

  4. […] In the “20/20″ report, an Indiana-based coach named Ken Stopkotte said the problem of creepy swimming coaches has been a problem in his 27 years of working. Interesting he says that, considering that he once replaced a coach who left because of allegations he condoned hazing on his swim team. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: