Lake Zurich High School’s sordid history of hazing

Hazing is a practice that most people experience at some point in their life. It is usually intended as a bonding experience. Sometimes this is done in good nature, with the newcomer engaging in some silly or embarrassing practice to gain the group’s approval and admittance. Yet It often turns to more cruel activities.

Reports about hazing from fraternities to police departments to sports teams to the military show that hazing becomes a means of ritually abusing newcomers. The older and more accepted the practice, the more perverse the ritual abuse. It is quite common for hazing to take on a sexual nature, usually resulting in sexual assault.

When one thinks of these cases, one would expect to hear this coming out of university or military school. One would not expect it out of a high school. Unfortunately, this is what happened at Lake Zurich High School. Two students who played football at the school filed a lawsuit against the school district, alleging that the coaches and school officials ignored the hazing, which allegedly included forcing the boys to strip naked and sexual assault:

The lawsuit was borne of an alleged incident that occurred in September 2016, when, according to the lawsuit, members of the Lake Zurich football team forced a teammate to strip naked and stand in the shower while they urinated on him; the suit states that at least 14 teammates watched.

When the child’s parents spoke with then-assistant coach and dean of students Chad Beaver, the Lake Zurich employee is reported to have told them the incident was “not a big deal.” Adding that players peeing on each other “happens all the time” and saying, “even I got peed on in high school.”

A second incident involving a another player occurred less than a month later on Oct. 26, according to the suit. Following a group pasta dinner, the team went back to the locker room where it conducted a “roast,” also known amongst the team as “Asshole of the week.” The plaintiff’s name was drawn from a hat along with two of his teammates; two of the players were then told to perform a sexual act on one of the three—the specific action is redacted in the lawsuit. A private security guard hired by the school is alleged to have witnessed the action but did not intervene; he notified Beaver the following day, Oct. 28, the same day of the school’s first-round playoff game.

According to another article, this ritual abuse has occurred at the high school for the past 20 years:

“They were brutally mocked, teased, humiliated, embarrassed and emotionally harmed,” said attorney, Antonio Romanucci. “All in the name of team bonding.” […] Romanucci said the hazing goes back at least 20 years and the team routinely used sexual assault and acts of degradation to haze teammates. The suit describes a player duct-taped naked to a post and players stripped and confined in lockers naked; there are also charges of forced sexual acts, all over a 20-year period.

“These activities were happening right inside the school, inside the locker room, right below the coaches’ offices and in the showers,” Romanucci said.

Romanucci said the hazing remained quiet because of “Lord of the Flies-type tactics” such as intimidation and fear to keep them from ratting out on each other.

This reminds me of the situation with Jerry Sandusky, not so much in that the abuse occurred but that it was impossible for people not to know it was going it. Like the Penn State situation, plenty of adults knew what occurred at Lake Zurich High School but chose to do nothing. For example, the private security guard chose to report the hazing incident the next rather stop the abuse or at least see what was going on.

The other similar element was Beaver’s response. This is one that comes up frequently in these types of cases. The person argues that it was done to them, therefore there is no issue. The implication is that if they could get over, then the newly abused child should get over it as well.

This is ridiculous logic that ignores the severity of what happened. A boy was forced to stand in a shower and let a dozen other boys urinate on him. Whether the urine would wash off is beside the point. Most people find urine disgusting. We do not like to touch our own urine, let alone someone else’s. Setting aside those with watersport fetishes, most people do not want to be urinated on. They certainly would not want to be pressured into doing it. They absolutely would not want it to be done by half a football team, one that will likely bring it up as a means of continued mockery and humiliation.

Then there is the second incident, which either includes oral or anal sex (as the most likely reasons for redacting the type of offense from the released lawsuit). How does one explain that away? That is not part of boys being boys. That is not to say that boys will not engage in sex play with each other. They usually will, and will involve oral or anal contact at some point. Yet there is a difference between that type of joking, consensual sex play and picking names from a hat and forcing someone to perform sex acts. That is not something one “gets over”, and it is not something anyone should have to experience just to play high football.

This is what makes the response to the alleged assaults so damning. There is no justifying it. One might be able to pass off putting a naked student in a locker as a joke. Yet for it to happen constantly and to escalate to the point of sexual assault is a serious matter. So serious that:

When administrators learned about the second incident, they sent a note to football parents describing the behavior as “egregious” and took steps to provide players with hazing education. They made the players perform community service work.

A note to the parents, hazing education, and community service? These boys would receive a tougher punishment if they were caught smoking. The response is laughable, and becomes even worse when one looks at how the adults were punished:

Two athletic officials were placed on administrative leave and later resigned. Ex-head coach David Proffitt, who also was a physical education teacher, and assistant coach Chad Beaver, who also was a student dean, resigned with severance packages. Proffitt will receive $25,516 and Beaver will receive $12,146, documents show. Athletic director Rolando Vazquez has submitted a resignation effective at the end of the school year.

Those are not large sums of money, but one must ask why they would receive anything given the reason why they resigned. They ignored physical and sexual abuse. Why are they being paid? Should not turning a blind eye to abuse void any severance package?

Hazing is not a good practice. Even when done with the best intentions, the core idea is the humiliate someone for another person’s pleasure. That does not bond people together. Rather, it creates resentment, shame, and anger. It also has a tendency to grow in cruelty. What starts as prancing around in your underwear becomes run naked in the street. What starts as putting someone in a broom closet for a few minutes becomes locking them naked in a locker.  What starts out as playful taps becomes painful paddling. What starts with odd mixtures of drinks becomes off mixtures of body fluids. What starts as kiss this other person becomes put his penis in your mouth. What starts out as dry humping becomes shoving plunger handles into another person’s rectum.

It sounds extreme, yet this is what happens when this type of behavior goes unchecked:

At Glenbrook North High School in 2003, 33 seniors were expelled for throwing pig intestines, feces and chemicals onto younger classmates as a form of initiation. A year later at Glenbrook South, lacrosse players were suspended and the season canceled after they were accused of smacking younger players’ behinds with wooden paddles.

A year later, Loyola Academy lacrosse players were accused of hazing students in an alcohol-related incident. Two players were forced out of the private Wilmette high school, and several others were suspended and dropped from the team.

In Maine Township High School District 207, a soccer coach was fired following a 2012 incident during which players allegedly poked younger players with fingers and sticks in their private parts.

As much as boys will joke with each other and sometimes do things that appear harmful but ultimately are not, these types of hazing situation are not it. They are humiliating, violent, and scarring. This is not something that should be allowed, and we need a better response than sending notes to the parents and saying “even I got peed on in high school”.

2 thoughts on “Lake Zurich High School’s sordid history of hazing

  1. I think that something else happens. The word gets out and boys, that would love to join up and play, don’t.

  2. Thanks for writing this. It’s kinda weird reading it during the Super Bowl, wondering how many teams around the country have something like this going on.

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