Middletown Area High School absolutely won't tolerate the hazing captured in a cell phone video.
Middletown Area High School is not playing around when it says it takes hazing seriously. After an incident of widespread hazing was caught on video, the district’s superintendent swiftly canceled the football season in its entirety and and is coming down hard on the involved students and staff in the ensuing investigation.
It all started on August 12, when the Harrisburg area school received information that a hazing incident occurred the night before at a school facility. When a video surfaced showing the “disturbing and upsetting” hazing, Superintendent Chelton Hunter launched an investigation.
In an open letter posted on the school district’s website, Hunter states that the incident took place on August 11 in the high school turf room during heat acclimation practice sessions. He goes on to describe the video:
“Cell phone footage shows a group of students restraining two of their teammates and using a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment to poke the buttock areas of the students who were on the ground,” he writes. “The video shows players fully clothed. It did not appear that any student’s body was physically penetrated. The video is difficult to watch as this is a completely unacceptable, offensive, and highly inappropriate act.”
The school said that after reviewing the video, administrators met with students, opened an investigation, and called the police. As the investigation started, players identified in the video were removed from the team and the football coach resigned.
Then, when another video surfaced, showing that the hazing was much more widespread than previously determined, Hunter wrote another letter this week shutting the whole team down.
“The kind of hazing that occurred in our facilities with this team is reprehensible. It simply cannot and will not be tolerated. We know we must work to address the culture of this team, educate our student body about hazing, and put programs in place to help us ensure that this kind of atmosphere is never allowed to exist in our school facilities.”
Hunter also acknowledged that the school will have to find alternative solutions and activities for the other affected students and student groups.
“Our administrative team and athletic director will work to find other opportunities this fall for our cheerleading team and marching band, since they will be impacted by this season cancellation,” he wrote. “We will also work to make alternative plans for Homecoming, which is typically scheduled around a football game.”
Steelton-Highspire School District has already invited the cheer team and marching band to their own home games to participate.
The families of two of the hazed students have hired a law firm that specializes in sexual abuse cases.
"We and our clients hope that the Middletown School District will learn and grow from this tragic experience, and be part of the solution to sexualized hazing, rather than the problem," the firm said in a statement to local news channel FOX43.
Heated meetings took place at the school on Wednesday night, with many parents upset that the season would end altogether.
"They have children now that are crying, they are upset. You have these parents that are now upset because they have to discuss to their children 'Hey, your season is done [and] there is nothing we can do,'“ Zu Taalib, a Middletown parent, said. "They are penalizing the whole organization instead of taking the time to figure out who did what," he said. "They are penalizing all of the children.”
According to the FOX43, the team’s starting quarterback is already trying to transfer to nearby Steelton-Highspire — but transfers for athletic reasons aren’t usually allowed.
This is not the only hazing incident in the state. Two other Pennsylvania high school football teams are under investigation after reported incidents. Athens Area School District is looking into allegations of hazing and bullying, though they do not plan on canceling games at this time. Mohawk High School's football team is also under investigation for hazing, and the program is paused at the moment.