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Four members of the Ventura High School varsity football team have been suspended from school and dismissed from the team for what is being called "false imprisonment" of a teammate.
Citing student confidentiality, school and district officials refused to provide the names of the players or details about the incident, which took place Aug. 15 on campus.
But Ventura High head football coach Tim Garcia confirmed the suspensions and said the four players were immediately removed from the team after the Ventura Unified School District completed an investigation this week.
"It's really a disappointment that kids in our football program would be involved with something like this," Garcia said. "Coaching high school sports is not just about the game you are coaching. There is so much more involved with the life lessons and things like that.
"If we lose 10 games because of it, that's fine, because this was the right thing to do."
The incident took place during practice time. The five players involved had been previously injured and were not dressed for practice. They left the field without permission, and the incident occurred on another part of campus.
According to school officials, the incident was not considering hazing because there was no initiation process involved. They said it fell more under the category of harassment.
Ventura Police Department spokesman Sgt. Tom Higgins said that the incident is under investigation and that no arrests have been made.
Higgins said no one was injured, and officials have been trying to determine exactly what happened.
Although he would not discuss details of the report, Higgins said false imprisonment generally involves an unlawful violation of personal liberty of another by restraint, confinement and detainment.
The school district conducted its own investigation before deciding to suspend the students. Superintendent Trudy Tuttle Arriaga would not reveal the length of the suspensions.
Arriaga said district officials met with the players involved and their parents during the investigation.
"In Ventura Unified, we absolutely do everything to ensure the safety of all students," Arriaga said. "When students make errors and young people make errors, it is our responsibility to provide consequences that we believe will assist a student in learning from their mistakes and help the student grow into a mature and responsible adult."
Arriaga said the district will provide help for the victim, if needed.
"Again to be very global with you, if we have a victim of harassment or victim of bullying or victim of unkind remarks, we obviously pay very close attention to the student and provide the services that student would require or would ask for," she said.
Staff writer Cindy Von Quednow contributed to this report.