WARSAW, NY ( WKBW ) Two local high school students are facing "hazing" charges in connection with the assault of a fellow student.
The Wyoming County District Attorney says a 15 year old student wrestler received a broken jaw while in the locker room in early December.
The student claims he was the victim of hazing, at the hands of two of his teammates, a 16 and 17 year old.
The names of the students are not being released.
Those two students face first degree hazing charges.
The wrestling team will not be allowed to take part in a tournament this week as the investigation continues.
( release from Wyoming County District Attorney ) On December 9, 2011, Student A, age 15, received a broken jaw while inside the Warsaw Wrestling Team Room. Student A was in the team room at approximately 3:20 p.m. with 5 other wrestlers as they were preparing for a wrestling practice in a nearby auxiliary gym. The Warsaw Police Department began an exhaustive investigation which lasted 12 days that included interviewing approximately 27 potential witnesses. The Warsaw Police executed a search warrant in order to seize Student C’s phone and reviewed numerous videos from the schools surveillance cameras.
Student A alleges that prior to December 9, 2011, he was the victim of bullying/hazing at the hands of 2 older wrestlers, Student C, age 16 and Student D, age 17. He alleges that he was messed with last year and that he thought his initiation was over. He alleges that on prior occasions older wrestlers picked on him when he moved up to Varsity last year. They would rough him up, shove him in a locker, make him eat things they found off the floor and repeatedly called him names. This year he alleges that they began to also pick on Student B, age 14 (at the time of the incident).
Student A alleges that at the end of last season, he told Coach Hirsch about him being picked on and the incidents did seem to die down.
He goes on to allege that because he had recently lost a match the others believed he should have won they began to pick on him again by calling him names and giving him a hard time. Student A alleges that on December 9, 2011 he was in the team room preparing for practice when Student C began to shove Student A and calling him names. Student A goes on to allege that he had had enough of being physical and verbally abused so in a desperate attempt to get the bullying/hazing to stop he asked Student C and D what he could do to make the abuse stop. At some point one of the members of the team that was in the room suggested that Student A punch Student B in the face. Students A and B then agreed to punch each other in the face with their hands behind their back. Student A then punched Student B causing him to go the ground. Student B then got up and while still dazed struck Student A in the face. The investigation revealed that the first punch was recorded by Student C. The second punch was also recorded. It is alleged that on the video of the first punch Student D says to Student A, “Hit’em Bitch, Hit’em.
Student A and B then allege that after the second punch the other members of the team with Student C and D leading the way did not feel that the second punch was hard enough so they started hitting Student A all over his body until they suggested that Student B hit Student A for a second time (the third overall punch). This third punch was also recorded. It was on the third punch that Students A’s jaw was broken. It’s alleged that Student C and D left Student A bleeding in the team room as they were laughing and offering no assistance. Student B took Student A to find help as the other members in the room left behind them.
It was also learned from Student C’s phone that there had been other incidents during the past 2-3 years that show that there was an atmosphere of some wrestlers assaulting other wrestlers. In one video a known member of the wrestling team, who has since graduated, hits another student so hard as to knock that student out cold. It appears that this video was taken inside the school. In another video from Student C’s phone you see multiple students tape up an unknown female who you can hear say “stop”. The location and date of this video has yet to be determined. The Warsaw Police discovered through its investigation that the videos of the second and third punches were intentionally destroyed. It is alleged in the charges that Student D intentionally deleted this video as part of a concerted attempt to blame everything on Student A. The Warsaw PD has secured the videos from the hallways surrounding the crime scene showing all movements of all the students right before and after Student A was injured.
It is also alleged in the hazing charges that this type of behavior had been reported to the head coach on at least 3 previous occasions as it relates to two other students. It is alleged that these students had told the coach that they were going to quit the team unless the bullying/hazing stopped. The coach allegedly took care of the situation. It is also alleged that Student D and other members of the team a game called “Hit for Hit”.
Students E and F, who were present during this incident are not alleged to have participated in the bullying/hazing on that day.
It is also alleged in the charges that one of the coaches told the team, in an attempt to curb previous behavior, to respect each other and to not give the younger kids a hard time.
Throughout this investigation the police department and the school administration have continued to work together during this investigation. It has taken many hours and many interviews to get to bottom of what happened inside that team room.
At this point the school is finalizing its decision regarding any disciplinary action against the students A through E. As for any disciplinary action against Coach Rob Hirsch, the school is also finalizing its decision as it continues to discuss the matter with the coach and the teacher’s union. Any questions regarding the school’s disciplinary action should be made to the Superintendent’s office.
In terms of criminal charges, the Warsaw Police Department have filed a charge of Hazing in the First Degree against Students C and D along with an additional charge of Tampering with physical evidence against Student D for the alleged destruction of the video involving punches two and three. Any charges against Students A and B are not within the jurisdiction of the District Attorney’s office due to their ages and any action that may be filed against them would occur in family court.
District Attorney Donald O’Geen said, “It is clear from the investigation that Student A was not injured as the result of ‘horseplay’, ‘his idea’, ‘kids being kids’, etc. These statements are copouts and are clearly contrary to the actual evidence in this case. This incident was days, weeks, maybe even years in the making as the ‘tradition’ of hazing each other grew amongst certain players. These students were left unsupervised in the team room to the point where some team members refused to move their lockers inside because of ‘what goes on inside there.’
In this case we are simply alleging that absent the continued harassment from Students C and D on December 9, 2011, this incident never would have transpired and Student A would not have been injured inside that team room.
It should be noted that while the lack of supervision allowed this activity to take place for certain specific members of the team, most members of wrestling team and coaching staff did not act in any way detrimental to the team. Throughout this investigation it was clear that the team was never in danger of being shut down as the goal was to find out what happened and who was involved. Since we knew most of the members were not involved that consequence would have unfairly punished uninvolved members of the team. The decision made by the school and the police are based solely on the evidence that has been uncovered through this investigation.
During the past couple of years there has been much discussion in local, state and national arenas discussing the issue of bullying in our schools. The Warsaw School District continues to take this matter seriously and it is going to go back and review all of its policies and procedures for the reporting and handling of these types of activities.
As for the current incident, it is important for the kids who are currently being bullied or who may be bullied in the future to see that the adults, who talk so much about wanting to stop bullying, are willing to do what is right in holding bullies accountable for their actions. “
“Going forward the entire community, including staff, teachers, parents, and other community leaders, needs to use this incident as a teaching moment as to why and how this student was injured and what could have been done to prevent it. To this day many involved and uninvolved people just don’t understand the dangerousness of people who bully or those that are being bullied”, said DA O’Geen.
The two individuals charged are to appear on January 9, 2011 in Warsaw Town Court. The names are being withheld from this press release due to the fact that one of the defendant’s is entitled to youthful offender adjudication and the other may or may not be discretionary youthful offender.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.