Safety & Security: Athlete Safety
- Coach, Principal, AD Reassigned Amid Hazing Scandal
by Courtney Cameron September 2017
In a public statement Friday, the Chandler Unified School District announced that three administrators have been reassigned from Hamilton High School as an investigation continues into allegations that the men had knowledge of incidents of hazing involving physical and sexual assault and failed to inform authorities.
According to district spokesperson Terry Locke, parents were informed Friday that principal Ken James, athletic director Shawn Rustad and former football coach Steve Belles "will be reassigned to work in other district-related duties away from the Hamilton High campus" as of Monday.
“While none of the employees have been charged, it could be some time before the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office decides how it will proceed," Locke told azcentral. "Therefore, to avoid any distraction caused by this uncertainty, the district administration and employees believe that reassignment is the best course at this time."
Chandler police began in March to document multiple reports of physical and sexual abuse allegedly occurring in the football locker room between the fall of 2015 and January 2017. According to reports, the assaults were part of an initiation ritual between members of the team and freshman players. Six victims have thus far come forward to corroborate the reports.
In July, police sought charges against James, Rustad and Belles, alleging that the men were aware that the abuse was taking place and failed to report any incidence of abuse to the authorities, and recommending that they be charged with child abuse.
Three Hamilton student-athletes will face criminal charges, while the district faces a potential loss of $34 million in damages.
- Forced-Splits Investigation: Administrators Step Down
by Courtney Cameron September 2017
On Friday, Denver Public Schools superintendent Tom Boasberg released the findings of a legal investigation into the administration and cheerleading program at Denver East High School.
- UConn to Study Impact of Heat on Athletes
by Pat Eaton-Robb September 2017
Douglas Casa acknowledges his new heat laboratory at the University of Connecticut's Korey Stringer Institute could be viewed by some as a torture chamber.
- High-Intensity Training Poses Rhabdo Risk
by Steve Dorfman September 2017
To be sure, plenty of athletes and fitness enthusiasts follow a hard-core credo — especially when doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT). But pushing oneself too hard can have dire consequences — even if you're in excellent shape.
- Prep Athlete Who Collapsed in Weight Room Has Died
by Paul Steinbach September 2017
A two-sport high school athlete who was hospitalized Tuesday after collapsing during a weight-lifting class has died.
Ben Johnson, a sophomore who played football and baseball at Fleming Island (Fla.) High School, died just before noon Thursday at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, where he had been in critical condition for two days. Reports indicate that Johnson’s heart stopped, causing irreversible brain damage.
On the day Johnson collapsed, the Clay County School District released the following statement: “A Fleming Island High School student passed out today while he was working out in the weight room during school hours. EMS was called immediately and he was transported to a nearby hospital. He was transferred to Wolfson Children’s Hospital where he is in critical condition. We are not releasing the student’s name at this time, but he is a sophomore who plays football and baseball.”
Practices were immediately canceled that day, and by Wednesday, Johnson’s identity became known when his family released a statement to Jacksonville’s WJAX-TV. At 1:21 p.m. Thursday, the Florida High School Athletics Association tweeted, “The #FHSAA family mourns the loss of @FIEagleSports student-athlete Ben Johnson. Please keep his family in your thoughts.”
At Fleming Island’s junior-varsity game Thursday night, players wore helmet stickers bearing Johnson’s initials and jersey number, and they joined other mourners in forming the number 78 on the field while clapping and chanting Johnson’s name. Fleming Island travels to Ridge View High School for a varsity game tonight.
- Aaron Hernandez Had CTE; Daughter Sues NFL
by Telegram & Gazette September 2017
Tests conducted on the brain of former football star Aaron Hernandez showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and his attorney said Thursday that the player’s daughter is suing the NFL and the New England Patriots for leading Hernandez to believe the sport was safe. In a news conference at his offices, Hernandez’s attorney Jose Baez said the testing showed one of the most severe cases ever diagnosed.
- Student Group Protests Harassment by Student-Athletes
by Courtney Cameron September 2017
Students at Lawrence High School skipped classes Monday to stage a peaceful sit-in protest of a perceived “pervasive culture of discrimination” against LGBT classmates.
The sit-in was organized by the LHS Total Equity Alliance in response to comments made in a group text between members of the football team that became public last week.
The text conversation included more than 200 students, and displayed dialogue comparing transgender identities to mental disorders, expounding on the topic in several directions.
According to LHS sophomore and TEA events coordinator Elliot Bradley, allowances made for football players responsible for the messages to continue play after the text was made public tells students that “LHS is valuing their players over their minority students.”
“It wasn’t really a shock to us, but it was alarming. It was really difficult for us to handle, knowing that these are people who represent our school,” he said.
Motivated by a lack of response from LHS staff, 45 members of the TEA met outside the school at 10 a.m. The protest had grown to roughly 70 students by the noon hour.
Bradley told the Lawrence Journal-World that the administration was informed of the sit-in in advance, when the protesters presented a list of demands calling for student-athletes involved in the harassment of other students to be held accountable.
“We talked to [assistant principal] Mr. Pruet for probably about five minutes, and then we, as a group, sat down in solidarity and said, ‘We are not going to move until action is taken,’ ” said Bradley.
Raven Andersen-Rolland, an LHS senior who has suffered harassment personally in the past, told reporters that some of the group’s demands had already been met.
In an emailed statement, district spokesperson Julie Boyle told parents and the press, “Lawrence High is committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students and does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. When the facts about these issues are gathered, the administration will take action as is appropriate in accordance with board policy and the student handbook.”
The protest was disbanded by 3 p.m., and Boyle assured parents that no threats to student safety were made over the course of the day’s events.
- Football Before Age 12 Linked to Behavioral Issues
by Rick Maese September 2017
A new medical study has found that children who play football before age 12 suffer mood and behavior problems later in life...
- Coach Reinstated After Putting Hurt Player in Game
by Telegram & Gazette Staff September 2017
A youth football coach, who was suspended after an injured 10-year-old player was inadvertently returned to a game after he was sidelined by an EMT, has been reinstated.
- College Football Player Dies After Sudden Illness
by Mike Plant September 2017
Offensive lineman Clayton Geib, 21, a senior chemistry major at Wooster, fell ill upon returning to the locker room and died Sunday afternoon at Wooster Community Hospital,