Ill. High School Soccer Coach Accused of Watching Players Sexually Assault Teammates
A soccer coach from a high school in Chicago has been at the center of a scandal after he was accused of allowing and watching players sexually assault team members, Chicago affiliate CBS 2 reports.
Michael Divincenzo, a soccer coach at Maine West High School, has been accused of not taking action after he witnessed students sexually haze team members, which became a ritual in the school for years.
An unidentified mother of a student has joined a lawsuit with several families against Divincenzo and the school and claims that her son was assaulted in September. According to the lawsuit, the soccer coach has been aware of these sexual attacks since 2007.
"I thought my son would be safe at school," she told ABC’s WLS-TV. "You think when you drop off your son, it’s a safe place to be. But I feel like the coaches should have kept him safe on the soccer field, and they didn’t do that." She added that the acts and the school’s lack of response brakes Illinois state anti-bullying laws.
"Multiple children could have been saved from the humility, indignity and emotional trauma and assault," attorney Tony Romanucci said.
According to the lawsuit, the unidentified mother’s son, 14, and at least two other boys were sexually assaulted during soccer practice in September during school hours - and coaches knew about the hazing. The lawsuit goes on to say that older players held down the boys, pulled down their pants and underwear and sodomized them. The plaintiffs say that the hazing is part of initiation for becoming part of the school’s varsity soccer team. The complaint also claims that Principal Audrey Haugan knew about the attacks, or should have known, and that two soccer coaches witnessed the ritual and allowed it to continue.
"That behavior in today’s society is disgusting," Romanucci said. "It should never be condoned. It should never have happened."
The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports that the first incidents involving Divincenzo occurred in July where he allegedly told other players to sexually assault younger teammates. The coach, along with two other coaches, who are also teachers, and varsity coach Emilo Rodriguez, were transferred with pay while the school district investigates the incident. According to the newspaper, three other coaches have been let go and six students have been sent to juvenile court on hazing charges.
When a hazing incident occurred four years ago, a freshman’s pants were allegedly pulled down in the locker room. When the student’s mother reported the assault, the school did nothing.