Alleging systematic hazing going back two decades, the families of two Lake Zurich High School football players filed a federal lawsuit Feb. 1 against the school, administrators and coaches.
The Chicago firm of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC, filed the 12-count complaint on behalf of two anonymous sets of parents and their children, naming as defendants Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 as well as Chad Beaver, dean of students and a football coach; David Profitt, a gym teacher and head varsity football coach; William Stutzman, a volunteer coach of the freshman and varsity teams; Rolando Vasquez, athletics director; Kaine Osburn, District 95 superintendent; and as many as 10 other football coaches.
While the complaint covers activity alleged to have taken place during the most recent football season, it also asserts “hazing rituals and traditions are a form of bullying and have been part of the culture of the Lake Zurich football team for years. The teams’ coaches have sanctioned these rituals, while other school officials - including Lake Zurich’s principal turned a blind eye toward the abuse, even after the abuse was reported to them.”
The complaint said hazing at Lake Zurich’s athletics programs date as far back as the late 1990s, alleging, among other specific acts or rituals, the boys’ cross county team using duct tape to attach naked teammates to a post and the wrestling team tying naked teammates to practice dummies. The complaint alleged the wrestling team also carried on “a tradition called ‘Birthday Beatdowns’ in which coaches and students would beat, kick, chase, punch and harass the birthday person.” Coaches either watched or participated in some of these activities, the complaint said, further alleging school administrators had been told about these activities in 1998.
The football allegations, which date to 1997, include players being locked inside lockers while naked, players placing their genitals on teammates’ faces without consent, multiple players urinating on another member in the showers, players sodomizing other players with broomsticks, punching each other in the genitals, beating other players and “then placing their genitals on their face or urinating on them once the member was on the ground,” targeting players who did not shower at the school and “forcing teammates to perform oral sex on each other.”
The complaint also details the tradition of following the team’s Thursday night pasta dinners with locker room “roasts” - which in the recent and at least one other season were run by a coach’s son - events where “a member of the team is selected to be targeted for name-calling; wearing embarrassing costumes; engaging in and forcing teammates into sexual acts.”
The players’ families said in the locker room, prominently displayed, is a whiteboard called the “Asshole Board” where players could tease and make statements about different players each day, leading to the “Asshole of the Week” at the roast.
One family alleged their son’s September locker room incident was given to Beaver in his capacity as a dean, though he had not previously been the student’s assigned dean. The complaint said Beaver told the family “14 kids had witnessed” what happened to their son and also reassured them it “was ‘not a big deal,’ ‘happens all the time’ and ‘even I got peed on in high school.’”
They also said Beaver told the family a coach would “always be” present in the locker room, but that there was no adult supervision in the locker rooms until Dec. 9. They alleged teammate harassment and bullying increased after the family’s phone call with Beaver, and said Stutzman “berated and scolded the student who” told his mother about the abuse.
The second family’s claims included allegations of racial slurs used against their son, and noted a private security officer the school hired “entered the locker room and observed the students” during an Oct. 27 roast, but “left without investigating further, without immediately informing anyone of what he observed or remaining in the locker room until all the students had left.” The same security officer was said to have seen “an assistant coach make contact with a student’s butt with an open hand.”
The complaint said the security guard told Beaver about the roast the next day - the Friday of the team’s first 2016 playoff game - but administration didn’t contact the Lake Zurich Police Department and the Department of Children and Family Services until Oct. 31, a Monday. The principal was not informed until Nov. 1. A football parents meeting took place Nov. 3 — the roast incident was not mentioned — and Beaver and Proffitt were placed on administrative leave as of Nov. 4, “but no further discipline has been meted out to any other defendants.”
The team played its next game Nov. 5 with a full roster. One student was given an in-school suspension, “but was still allowed to remain within the locker room and attend practices during his suspension.” The complaint further alleged “a student found posting satirical and offensive written content about the hazing traditions received four days of suspension and was the student punished … despite his lack of involvement with the actual acts of hazing and bullying.”
Beaver, Proffitt and Vasquez voluntarily resigned in January.
The complaint, which details the ways in which the alleged events contradict written district employee policy as well as state law governing mandatory reporting of abuse allegations, seeks damages of at least $50,000. The lawsuit also asks the court to impose permanent injunctions that would end such hazing and abuse at Lake Zurich High School, including requiring the district to “implement mandatory and effective training programs for district faculty, staff, coaches and students on issues relating to hazing and bullying, and methods to intervene to stop students from hazing/bullying other students."