A small, idyllic mountain town in Montana finds itself mired in the aftermath of a disturbing scandal that has landed a high school football player charges of sexual assault after an unseemly hazing incident on a school campus.
As reported by KRTV.com, the Great Falls Tribune and other outlets in the Great Falls, Mont., area, the 2011 Great Falls (Mont.) High football team was rocked with a hazing scandal that revolved around an activity called "power gobbling," in which upper class members of the football team picked up freshmen victims in the shower by their crotch. In the process of that hazing activity, Great Falls senior Alex Mauricio Botina-Roehm allegedly stuck his thumb up a freshman's rectum.
That act led to a felony charge of sexual intercourse without consent and two felony charges of sexual assault against Roehm, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. In the meantime, the teen has been expelled from Great Falls public schools for taking part in the hazing ritual.
The hazing scandal itself shone an unwanted light on Great Falls, with school administration under fire for taking too long to investigate the hazing situation; the power gobbling actions reportedly took place in September but were not investigated until November, when the grandmother of one of the victims reported the alleged hazing to Great Falls police.
While Great Falls High administrators contend that they dealt with the incident as soon as they were made aware of it, it was unclear if the alleged hazing ritual was immediately reported to police because of confusion over standard child abuse reporting procedures.
"What we learned included the fact that there is, there's sort of a grey area, shall I say, in the laws about reporting," Great Falls Superintendent Cheryl Crawley told KRTV.com. "Everyone is led by the language of the laws to understand that we're reporting child abuse, which people think of as young children and when the abuse occurs by someone in the family or in the child's living situation."
Whether or not the hazing incident leads to jail time for Roehm remains to be seen, but it will definitely change the way that the Great Falls district responds to parent complaints, according to Crawley. Among other changes, the entire school staff will now have to attend an enhanced sexual harassment training seminar and official board policy may be changed to make the district more responsive.