Four students who said they were victims of "vicious sexual assaults” in Damascus (Md.) High School football locker rooms during a period spanning 2017 to 2019 filed suit last Thursday against the Montgomery County Board of Education and several Damascus school officials and coaches.
As reported by Montgomery Community Media, the 33-page and 31-page lawsuits detail the sexual assault incidents, as well as an environment in which several people in authority did not intervene.
According to the filings, during Damascus’ 2017 football season, “numerous freshmen football players were raped, sexually assaulted, and/or battered with the b[r]oom or an attempted rape occurred with the broom.”
The lawsuits claim that parents notified former Damascus junior varsity football coach Vincent Colbert about an incident that occurred in August 2017. Colbert notified former varsity head coach Eric Wallich, the lawsuits say. The lawsuits allege the victim was interviewed by the school resource officer, but the Board of Education didn’t notify the victim’s parents about the meeting.
The defendants named in the lawsuits include the Montgomery County Board of Education, former Damascus principal Casey Crouse, Colbert and Wallich, and former Damascus athletic director Joe Doody.
In May 2019, Montgomery County Public Schools announced Crouse resigned as principal at Damascus; athletic director Doody was removed from his position but remains an MCPS teacher; JV coach Colbert was fired. On Jan. 17, Wallich announced he was stepping down as head coach of Damascus’ varsity football team after leading the team to its fourth state title in the past five years. Wallich is still employed by Damascus.
The two lawsuits allege “that coaches, teachers, and administrators knew about the Damascus High School tradition called ‘brooming’ wherein sophomore football players terrorized freshmen football players by threatening to, and at times forcibly sodomizing the younger players with a broom.”
The victims’ attorneys allege that MCPS was alerted by parents and other adults about sexual assaults that occurred in the junior varsity locker room, but MCPS failed to provide proper adult supervision to prevent such assault. Also, the attorneys say that MCPS officials, Damascus coaches and administration “knew about locker room sexual assaults at Damascus and other high schools in Montgomery County prior to the widely publicized Oct. 31, 2018, event, but were wholly indifferent to them.”
This past October, MCPS released an external review conducted by the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, which investigated the circumstances surrounding the alleged sexual assaults in Damascus’ locker rooms and looked into procedures for other after school programs. According to the external review, MCPS has enhanced “the after-school supervision planning process at high schools to provide greater clarity for coaches and activity sponsors creating supervision plans.”
The lawsuits come nearly five months after juvenile suspects pleaded to be involved in the attack. However, because the defendants were juveniles, the charges the teens face aren’t clear.
According to the lawsuits, there have been two assaults during the 2019 season, one year after the Oct. 31 alleged rape incidents. One of the assaults occurred in an unsupervised football locker room, the other occurred in an unsupervised weight room, according to the documents, Montgomery Community Media reported.