A small Texas town is reeling from the revelation that alleged “sadistic hazing rituals” have been occurring within the high school’s male athletic teams.
Since the end of March, La Vernia, a town of 12,000, with a police force of six full-time officers, has seen the arrests of 13 students—seven juveniles and six adults—related to allegations of sexually violent hazing within the boy’s football, baseball, and basketball teams.
La Vernia High School is facing a lawsuit, and at least 10 victims have filed reports detailing athletic team “initiations” that included sodomy and sexual abuse with Coke and Gatorade bottles, flashlights, and the threaded end of a carbon dioxide tank.
The scandal has been referred to as a “black eye” on the community by La Vernia police chief Bruce Ritchey, who has yielded the investigation to the Texas Rangers to ensure impartiality. In the tight-knit community, many of the victims, perpetrators and law enforcement officials are closely connected.
The case will be prosecuted by the State Attorney General’s office.
“Hazing is done in high schools and colleges all over the country,” Ritchey told the San Antonio Express-News, “but not to this point.”
The investigation has fomented controversy and division, deepened by this week’s arrest of three 18-year-old senior basketball players who were charged with second-degree felony sexual assault for allegedly sodomizing a 15-year-old with a flashlight at a home near La Vernia in February.
The parents of one alleged victim have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the La Vernia Independent School District (ISD) and its officials, claiming that they permitted a “persistent ‘rape culture’” within the football program.
“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 alleges. “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.”
Defendants listed in the lawsuit include the school district, superintendent, building principal, athletic directors and football coaches.
La Vernia ISD Superintendent Jose Moreno claims that the district became aware of the lawsuit through the news and “will continue working closely with the authorities as they conduct a full and thorough investigation.”
According to an Associated Press report, Moreno contended that new protocols are being implemented at the school to enable students to more easily report abuse.
J.K. Ivey, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, asserted that the litigation was 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 that may have been going on for more than a decade and affected numerous children.
“I think everyone was shocked and horrified by the events,” Ivey said. “The fact of the matter is, this shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
H/T: The Washington Post
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