Soccer seniors suspended from playoffs for pie-throwing hazing

The Needham (Mass.) High school senior girls soccer players called it an "initiation ritual." Needham Principal Jonathan Pizzi called it hazing, and suspended them. When the father of one of the girls who was hazed stepped up to point out that the suspension would force the girls to miss the MIAA state soccer tournament for an act the hazed girls agreed to participate in, Pizzi wouldn't budge.

Those were the string of events that brought Pizzi and the aforementioned father to a Massachusetts court room, where on Tuesday a Norfolk (Mass.) County judge faced a decision that would determine whether five Needham seniors would get another crack at the state soccer playoffs.

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Justice Barbara Dortch-Okara quickly decided they would not, as reported in the Boston Herald.

In a two-page decision filed this morning in Dedham Superior Court, Justice Barbara A. Dortch-Okara said Principal Jonathan Pizzi "has complied with or is in the process of complying with the rudimentary requirements" of the student handbook.

"As students have no entitlement to participate in high school sports, there is no due process violation in any exclusion from participation in such activities," Dortch-Okara wrote.

According to the Herald, Pizzi handed down the suspensions following an incident that the team called an "initiation ritual." That followed Needham clinching a share of the Bay State Conference Championship on Oct. 29. Meanwhile, Boston TV station WHDH reported that the alleged hazing included younger players having pies thrown in their face, while CBS Boston reported that the freshmen were blindfolded and led by leashes in what was evidently a misguided attempt at team building. Parents of the younger hazed athletes reportedly felt Pizzi's punishment was too harsh, which is why Todd White, the father of one of the freshmen who was hazed, stepped forward to file the injunction heard Tuesday.

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"I am very saddened by it and I am very concerned about it in terms of student safety and student character," Pizzi told CBS Boston.

White was seeking to have the girls perform 50 hours of community service and participate in a seminar on hazing and bullying. Neither of those alternate punishments was viewed as acceptable by the judge.

"My daughter is one of the freshman girls. She loves these seniors, supports these seniors, and is mortified that in any way these seniors are harmed, their college careers are harmed," Todd White told WHDH. "The consequences of the investigation were infinitely more harmful than anything that any of these kids went through."

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With White's attempt at an injunction overruled, Needham was forced to play Brockton without its seniors, eventually succumbing to an embarrassing 7-1 loss on Tuesday.

The suspended Needham players' ongoing nightmare might not end there, either. Needham police are still investigating the incident, and there is a chance that the senior pie throwers could face some type of charges, whether the younger players and their parents want that or not.

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