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Parents critical of district's handling of hazing allegations at Norwalk High School

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Posted at 5:29 PM, Sep 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-22 19:49:14-04

NORWALK, Ohio — Norwalk police and school officials continue to investigate allegations that a high school student was forcibly held down by two students while another student hazed the victim with a sex toy, according to police reports obtained by News 5. A large group of parents admonished district administrators at a school board meeting this week, accusing them of inappropriately interrogating students and confiscating their cell phones without their parents or police present.

The incident, which, according to reports, took place in the varsity locker room before football practice in early August, has been forwarded to the county prosecutor’s office to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

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According to a Norwalk police report, officers were made aware of the hazing allegations on August 25, roughly two-and-a-half weeks after the incident had taken place. The responding police officer noted that Norwalk High School principal Patrick Kania told him that he had already spoken with several students and administered some discipline to the alleged offenders. One of the students had been suspended and could potentially be expelled, according to the report. Another student had received detention.

According to the police report, the victim told police that the incident had happened the week of August 8 at approximately 3 p.m., as roughly a dozen students were getting ready for football practice in the varsity boys locker room. As the victim was about to walk out the door, another student grabbed him and forced him onto the floor while at least two people held him down by his arms. One of the students then came over with a sex toy and poked the victim in the buttocks, according to the report, before smacking him in the face with it.

The victim reportedly told police that one of the students recorded the incident on his phone and later posted it to a Snapchat group comprised of multiple football players.

“[The victim] told [the officer] that he believed this was just a prank gone too far,” the report states. “[The victim] confirmed the dildo did not penetrate him at any point, he was fully clothed and it did not seem like [the perpetrator] was attempting to use the dildo for any sexual purpose.”

One of the witnesses to the incident reportedly told police that the entire ordeal lasted roughly 20 seconds.

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Norwalk police later determined that the cell phone recording of the incident that was posted in a Snapchat group had previously been deleted. However, after securing a search warrant, police obtained a copy of the recording, which largely corroborated the victim’s account.

Police were able to identify the students involved in the alleged hazing through witness statements, video surveillance and social media. The victim and the alleged perpetrators were all juveniles at the time of the incident.

At a Norwalk school board meeting Tuesday night, a large group of parents and concerned citizens voiced outrage at the incident itself as well as the district’s response to it, particularly in how administrators conducted the investigation before police were involved.

“Stop trying to trap kids by strong-arming them and by taking their phones, which I am sure is not legal. And then interrogating them without their parents’ presence and without their consent,” said parent Kurt Livingston during the public comment period. “I’m here tonight because I’m disappointed in the behavior of the football team and the coaching staff. I do not condone any of the [expletive] that is alleged to have happened.”

Jeremy Norris, the Vice President of the school board, was also angry by the allegations as well as rumors that a member of the football team’s coaching staff reportedly told some players to urge their parents not to speak at the school board meeting.

“I am disheartened and disgusted by what has happened. I’m trying to remain calm here because I don’t have a prepared statement. But I can tell you that the school board is not happy. We are not in charge of discipline,” Norris said. “Silencing parents and silencing students from their voices enrages me. That person should not be coaching.”

Other parents were critical of the decisions by the high school’s principal, vice principal and athletic director, alleging that they “interrogated” the students prior to notifying their parents. Additionally, multiple parents alleged that the administrators confiscated the students’ cell phones.

The case has been forwarded to the county prosecutor’s office.

Norwalk City Schools released this statement regarding the situation:

Our Norwalk High School administrative team investigated an incident that happened in the locker room that involved members of our varsity football team. Several student-athletes received discipline for their actions in accordance to our board adopted policies. Additionally, the Norwalk Police Department was contacted and information was shared. The safety of our students is vitally important; our district will continue to act in the best interest of our entire student body.
Brad Cooley, Superintendent