I-TEAM: Parent says coaches were watching TV during hazing incident at HS football camp

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BEREA, Ohio -- The Berea-Midpark School District is sharing new details on what the coaches were doing while violent hazing was happening at a high school football camp back in June. But, one parent tells the I-TEAM their information is wrong.

Four players are facing charges for their involvement, which includes sex assaults and more.

Until now, the school district has refused to answer questions about the coaches.

Then on Friday, the superintendent released a statement saying that, “the coaches were on the first floor of the dorm conducting numerous football-related activities with the players... the coaches were monitoring the student athletes… going over plays… going over film.”

But the parent of one victim tells the I-TEAM there's no way that was the case.

“I asked my son where the coaches were when this all took place, and he said somewhere on the first floor in a room watching the NBA Finals. They should have had more supervision than what they did. My son was in their hands," he said.

The father added that he even asked the head coach directly about the coaches.

"I said,  ‘My son has stated you guys were watching the NBA game finals’ and he said  ‘well, yeah, we were watching TV," he recalled.

So did the hazing happen while the coaches were watching TV or as they watched over the kids and worked with them?

We've contacted the school district again for answers.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutors said the investigation found 11 players became victims.

An 18-year-old player has been indicted as an adult. Three other teens face charges in juvenile court. All are fighting the charges.

No other adults have been punished.

Superintendent Tracy Wheeler told us earlier this week, “We're saying we don’t find the coaches have done anything inappropriate.”

The indictment against the 18-year-old lists a three day period for the dates of the crimes, and that raises more questions about supervision at the camp.

Meantime, that father said he has not received an apology from the school district.

"I'm very frustrated. I believe they failed at their job. Some accountability has to be taken, and there's none," he said.

Read the district's full statement below:

August 30, 2019

To the Students, Parents and Community Members of the Berea City School District:

While we understand that there have been concerns around our football program and specifically the disciplining of our students and our coaches with regards to the hazing incident that occurred in June, please be assured that our main concern and responsibility from the very beginning of this incident has been the well-being of the victims.

We had an additional responsibility to investigate whether or not any employees and/or students should be disciplined as a result of the incident. As we have stated in previous communications, we cannot detail the discipline that has and is happening to the students who were involved in perpetrating the hazing of underclassmen. Please know that students who break our code of conduct will be disciplined appropriately for their actions. The administration takes students’ privacy rights seriously and both federal and state privacy laws prohibit the Board or any of its employees from revealing personally-identifiable-students information, which includes any information about student discipline.

Now that we are aware that the investigation by law enforcement is complete, we want to ensure the public understands that our own investigation has found that the Berea-Midpark football coaches had no knowledge of the hazing incident until the high school administration learned of the incident through an anonymous call made to the SaferSchools Ohio Tip Line on June 18, seven days after the hazing incident.

During the time when the hazing event happened in a player’s dorm room, many of our coaches were on the first floor of the dorm conducting numerous football-related activities with the players. The coaches were monitoring the student-athletes, including going over plays, formations and sets, meeting with position groups, and going over film. Due to being warned by the Case Western Reserve University coaching staff that the area around the campus was not safe, our coaches watched and monitored students leaving the entry floor exits to go outside to pick up food deliveries to ensure they returned to the dorm safely. Coaches also purposely chose to meet with students on the first floor in the open area because they had been advised by the CWRU head coach NOT to be in any student rooms. Coaches did bed checks between 10:30-11:00 p.m. and made sure all students were in their rooms. Our Titan football coaches have never, and will never, condone or tolerate hazing. During the course of our investigation, we found no evidence that during the camp coaches had any knowledge of the hazing incident or any reason they should have been aware of the hazing.

As far as the district is concerned, we do not anticipate that there will be any need for additional communication to the school community about this unfortunate hazing incident since both the criminal and school investigations are now complete. We will continue to provide support to the victims of this incident, as we have done from the very beginning.

Sincerely,

Tracy L. Wheeler
Superintendent

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