No criminal charges to be filed in basketball team hazing
Chief: 'This activity was able to ferment in the school’s basketball program'
March 2, 2016 11:21 PM
The police chief said that hazing has been going on for 10 years among basketball players at Leechburg High School.
By Madasyn Czebiniak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Saying it was a school district matter and not a criminal one, the Leechburg police chief announced today that no criminal charges would be filed at this time in regard to hazing in December by members of the Leechburg High School basketball team.
Police Chief Michael Diebold said his department’s investigation of allegations by athletes and their parents found that for 10 years, basketball players had been hazed or initiated by others using what was known as the ”yoshi stick,” a phallic-shaped piece of wood crafted in the school’s wood shop.
”It is alleged that students would be forcibly dragged or lured into the team room of the locker room, held down and have a stick named the yoshi stick shoved or attempted to be shoved into the rectum,” the chief wrote in a news release. ”This investigation revealed, as it relates to December 2015, that clothing was not removed and penetration of the anus did not take place.”
The wooden stick was kept in plain sight in the locker room, stored above the white erase board the team used during practices and games to diagram plays, the chief said. Numerous sticks were alleged to have existed and there is a possibility that a new stick was made every year in the wood shop.
Although Pennsylvania has laws against hazing, Chief Diebold wrote that none of the students who were victimized in December wanted to press charges and department investigators could find no evidence of criminal intent in the hazing.
“After consultation with the Armstrong County District Attorney’s Office and a careful and thorough review of all Pennsylvania statutes, it has been determined that criminal charges will not be filed at this time,” the chief wrote.
But he had harsh words for the school district and suggested that the state Department of Education look into Leechburg's policies.
”For some reason that has yet to be discovered, this activity was able to ferment in the school’s basketball program to a degree that allowed a decade of student athletes to develop a state of mind that this behavior was acceptable and traditional,” the chief wrote.
“This investigation reveals that there may have been catastrophic failure within the school district and that the administration and school board should take appropriate action to investigate, identify and correct these issues.”
Chief Diebold also said his department would keep the investigation open in case new evidence is found.
Leechburg Superintendent Frank Prazenica, high school principal Matthew Kruluts and high school athletic director Mark Jones could not be reached Wednesday night. Coach Damien Davies, through his attorney, "has chosen to remain silent and not answer questions in regards to these incidents," the chief wrote.
Madasyn Czebiniak: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1269.
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