H.S. soccer coach, players suspended after alleged hazing of player with autism

Screenshot from CBS Pittsburgh.
Screenshot from CBS Pittsburgh.

Two 17-year-old high school soccer players and their coach were suspended this week following a heartbreaking act of hazing: the players allegedly duct taped a teammate with autism to the goal post, then left him there alone as he screamed for help.

An off-duty state trooper heard the screams coming from the soccer field at Highlands (Pa.) High School on Sunday. Rushing over, she found a terrified Austin Babinsack, 16. Babinsack later told CBS Pittsburgh that the two players had forced him into a car and driven him to the field on Sunday night. "They duct taped my hands, my legs, up to my waist, all the way around the whole pole," he said. "And then they attempted to try to take a picture of it."

They left him there for about 15 minutes, as they reportedly drove off to get another student.

Before Sunday, he'd been very proud to be part of the team, his mom, Kristy Babinsack told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She added that Austin often wore the team warm-up suit to bed.

The school is in Natrona Heights, about 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh. Coach Jim Turner was not there at the time of the incident. He and the two players are suspended for a minimum of five days.

There have been many stories in recent years about students with disabilities joining high school sports teams. These stories often end with the new teammate being embraced or awarded special recognition, such as homecoming king or queen. Many videos of students with autism or Down syndrome, like the one of a team manager with special needs hitting 14 points in a game last year, have gone viral.

Austin Babinsack's story is a sad reminder that not all high school teams are as understanding of their teammates with special needs. In 2000, eight Trumbull (Conn.) High School wrestlers were arrested and seven expelled for attacking and sodomizing a teammate who had learning disabilities, according to ESPN.

The alleged duct taping is disturbing enough on its own, but on Monday it grew worse for Babinsack. His mom told WPXI that he went to the team's game on Monday night, but several teammates called him a "snitch." At that point, he quit. He stayed home from school on Tuesday but has since returned.

"I'm just disappointed with the Highland soccer team," he said. "They should've been run better."