For the second time this month, a high school has canceled the remainder of its football season over allegations of hazing. Central Bucks (Pa.) School District Superintendent David Weitzel posted a letter on the district website Thursday explaining that new players on the Central Bucks West High School team had been put through a "humiliating" preseason ritual.
Our inquiry determined that students new to the team were expected to participate in several initiations that were both humiliating and inappropriate. The most personally invasive activity required a rookie to grab another player’s private parts while fully clothed. These initiations took place in front of most team members. I want to be clear that these activities did not result in physical harm, but were not harmless. Players who did not directly participate, but witnessed and failed to report the activities, also violated the Code of Conduct.
James Donnelly, chief of the Bucks County Regional Police Department, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that players also described what they called "waterboarding." Waterboarding is a form of torture in which water is poured into a person's mouth and nostrils while they are lying on their back in an inclined position, with their feet higher than their heads. Their faces are usually covered in a cloth while the water is poured, so that water can get in but not out. At CBWHS, the players reportedly had towels placed over their faces before being led into the shower. Donnelly told the Associated Press that he didn't think waterboarding was an accurate description of what happened.
CBWHS is in Doylestown, Pa., about 50 miles from Sayreville, N.J., where administrators canceled the football season earlier this month and seven players were arrested on charges related to alleged hazing and sexual assault. In Sayreville, the victims went directly to the police, who notified the school of the investigation.
In Doylestown, the school administration conducted an internal investigation and alerted the police. Weitzel's letter said the allegations were first brought forward on Oct. 14. On Oct. 17, the principal sent a letter to parents saying that they'd determined that no "intentional mistreatment" had occurred. Clearly they continued investigating and determined otherwise.
"The letter was pretty damning and contains some pretty scary information," Donnelly said. "We don't know if it was just kids horsing around or if it was more serious, but we're going to investigate."
Parents in Doylestown told the local papers that missing this Friday's scheduled homecoming game is hard on the players, and that only those directly involved should be disciplined. Weitzel took the stance that anyone, whether they were directly involved or watching, is at fault for failing to follow the code of conduct.
The CBWHS team has a long history of success, going 326-42-4 under head coach Mike Pettine, who retired in 2000. Pettine's son, who played for the school, is now the head coach of the NFL's Cleveland Browns.
Mike Cary, another former standout who now coaches at CBWHS, told the Inquirer, "I literally feel sick to my stomach right now. For something like this to happen at such a storied program, it's mind-boggling."
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