Alleged hazing prompts lawsuit, investigation

By Contributing Writer

by Doug Pitorak & Liz Earl, Contributing Writer

A 14-year-old boy at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Ill., was allegedly sexually assaulted by his soccer teammates Sept. 27 in a hazing incident, according to a lawsuit filed by his parents Nov. 19 on his behalf.

The boy’s mother, who asked to remain anonymous, held a press conference Nov. 19 with her lawyer to announce the complaint.

The lawsuit claims the victim, a freshman, was beaten and sodomized by upperclassmen on the varsity boys soccer team, to which he was recently promoted from the freshman squad.

The boy’s mother addressed the media from her lawyer’s office at Romanucci & Blandin, 33 N. LaSalle St. With a baseball cap covering her bowed head and sunglasses masking her face, the woman explained why she chose

to speak.

“’Cause I don’t want it to happen again,” she said.

The lawsuit calls for monetary compensation and asks that the school district adopt stricter protocol so similar incidents do not recur.

“The line crossed in this instance should never be crossed again,” said Antonio Romanucci, the family’s lawyer.

The plaintiffs want the district to “assign a peer mediator and/or other staff member to the District schools to provide active monitoring for the schools and to address instances of hazing and bullying that arise at schools.”

Other defendants include Audrey Haugan, the principal of Maine West High School; Emilio Rodriguez, the boy’s freshmen soccer coach; Michael Divincenzo, the boys’ varsity soccer coach; and more unnamed coaches in the boys’ soccer program.

The complaint accuses the coaches of calling for a “campus run” during practice, at which time the upperclassmen allegedly tackled the victim, removed his undergarments, gripped his private parts and inserted their fingers and other foreign objects in the victim’s anus.

Romanucci said this hazing ritual has been going on for a long time and was sanctioned by the coaches.

“We’ve traced the trail back at least three to four years,” he said. “There’s more to the story than what happened on Sept. 27.”

According to an emailed statement to The Chronicle from David Beery, director of communications for Maine Township High School District 207, Rodriguez and Divincenzo have been “temporarily reassigned, with pay, pending the conclusion of the investigation.” The statement also said the district would not openly speak on the matter.

Romanucci said two other freshmen were violated on Sept. 27, but he does not represent them. He said six upperclassmen were charged as juveniles on counts of battery and assault.

According to Romanucci word of the incident only reached the boy’s mother after gossip spread through the student body and school officials caught wind of it. Romanucci asked young victims of bullying, hazing and assault to come forward.

“They can’t be afraid, because you can’t fix anything if you don’t come forward and speak up,” he said.