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updated: 12/22/2017 6:14 PM

Lake Zurich High football hazing lawsuit settled for $399,000

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  • Two Lake Zurich High School students will receive a total of $399,000 as part of a settlement in their lawsuit alleging hazing by members of the varsity football team.

      Two Lake Zurich High School students will receive a total of $399,000 as part of a settlement in their lawsuit alleging hazing by members of the varsity football team.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, 2016

 
 

Two Lake Zurich High School students will receive a total of $399,000 as part of a settlement in their lawsuit stemming from hazing allegations among members of the varsity football team.

Each student will receive $199,500 from the settlement, according to Lake Zurich Unit District 95 documents that were part of the settlement announcement Thursday night. Among the allegations in the lawsuit was the hazing included players urinating on teammates or placing their genitals on other players' faces without consent.

Andrew Touhy, a spokesman for the plaintiffs, said they decided to settle the lawsuit to ensure the privacy of the children and their families.

"And I believe they just really wanted to put this behind them so they could continue living their lives," Touhy said.

District 95 spokeswoman Jean Malek said the district thought the settlement was the best option. She said the settlement is paid through the district's insurance. Under the terms, the plaintiffs are responsible for paying their attorney's fees.

"It is the belief of the District and the Board of Education that this settlement is in the best interest of all parties involved," Malek said in an emailed statement. "The settlement helps bring closure to the matter for the District and the families involved while avoiding further litigation costs."

Malek said the settlement does not represent an admission of fault by the district.

The lawsuit, filed in January on behalf of players called Doe Children A and B, alleges the school's sports programs have had hazing rituals and traditions since at least 1997, and that coaches were aware they were happening.

It stemmed from allegations surfacing at the end of the 2016 season that varsity football team members participated in "inappropriate activity" in the locker room after the team dinners in the days before a Nov. 5 playoff game against Fenwick High School. In a letter sent by administrators, players were ordered to sign a student behavior agreement or be prohibited from playing the rest of the 2016 season.

The letter did not specify what happened, but it included several references to hazing.

"The activity was egregious and warrants discipline, including suspension from school activities," the letter stated.

An email sent by District 95 administrators confirmed they were investigating a "hazing incident" involving the football team, while another described the district as "in crisis." The emails were obtained by the Daily Herald through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Lake Zurich police investigated the case, but they said there was insufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges. No police reports were ever filed in the case, police said.

The hazing reports led to the resignations of head football coach David Proffitt, assistant coach Chad Beaver and Athletic Director Rolando Vazquez. Also, District 95 made changes for all sports, including the requirement of a locker-room supervision schedule and a mandatory anti-hazing presentation for varsity football players and their parents and guardians. It also implemented a 13-point plan recommended by its lawyers.

Malek said Friday another important change District 95 has made was implementing an anonymous tip line for students.

Touhy said it was very important the district acknowledged what happened and responded by instituting broad policy changes.

"While the policy changes are a crucial and necessary step in a positive direction, the suffering endured by the student-athletes must never be overlooked," Touhy said.

Attorney Antonio Romanucci, who represented the students and their families in the lawsuit, said the settlement was fair to both sides.

"What was important to us was to not put children through more pain and suffering," he said. "It was the right thing to do when you consider the lengths that the school district made to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Romanucci was also the attorney for five former Maine West High School students in their lawsuit stemming from allegations of hazing and assault among members of the school's boys soccer team. In that case, each student received $200,000 from the settlement.

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