Lawsuit over hazing hits La Vernia School District
The parents of a high school football player sued the La Vernia Independent School District over their son’s reported hazing, leveling an accusation Tuesday that school officials knew of the practice and allowed it to continue for years.
The federal civil rights lawsuit says the unnamed student was sodomized by other La Vernia High School players as part of an initiation ritual that amounted to rape.
“The teams’ coaches have sanctioned these rituals, while other school officials, including La Vernia ISD and the School’s principal, athletic director, and coaches, turned a blind eye toward the abuse, even after the abuse was reported to them,” the lawsuit said. “Indeed, the Plaintiffs are but a fraction of the students who have been physically and sexually assaulted pursuant to these sadistic hazing rituals which include rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration, and sexual abuse.”
Ten high school athletes have been arrested or detained on sexual assault charges in a scandal that came to light in March and has rattled the small town east of San Antonio. The charges are part of a wide-ranging hazing investigation that has uncoveredat least 10 victims over several years, officials have said.
The suit seeks monetary damages for the psychological trauma to the student, who it calls “Child Doe,” and an injunction, a court order, to end the practice. The suit claims hazing is part of the football team culture, but is a form of bullying.
The suit said the practice has been going on for at least a decade, and that hazing incidents have been sanctioned by school staffers who stayed quiet about it.
School officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.
“I think everyone was shocked and horrified by the events,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer, J.K. Ivey, said in an interview. “The fact of the matter is this shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
Separately, in a news release, Ivey said the suit is “the first step in an effort to peel back the covers on a long and sordid history of neglect, misconduct, and abuse at La Vernia High School involving dozens of children over a decade or more.
“The national news attention on this story is causing former students and athletes to come forward with their own accounts of what’s gone on at La Vernia High School. We believe the evidence will show a pattern of deliberate neglect covering many years.”
The suit also names as defendants La Vernia ISD Superintendent Jose H. Moreno, the high school’s principal, Kristen Martin, and the school’s athletic directors Brandon Layne and Richard Hinojosa, and coaches Chris Taber, Scott Grub, and Keith Barnes.