Inverness detective named in Lake Zurich football hazing lawsuit
An Inverness police detective who's been a volunteer coach is among the defendants in a federal lawsuit alleging two Lake Zurich High School football players were hazed by teammates.
Lake Zurich Unit District 95, its superintendent, athletic director and football coaches, including Officer William Stutzman, are accused of allowing hazing and bullying in the team locker room in 2016. Monetary and other damages are sought in the complaint.
Filed last month on behalf of two players called Doe Children A and B, the suit alleges the school's sports programs have had hazing rituals and traditions since at least 1997. The lawsuit claims coaches were aware of the hazing well before team allegations from Oct. 27 of last year became known and led to investigations.
Stutzman is singled out in a section of the complaint that claims he "berated" a player who reported the alleged abuse of Doe Child A to his mother. Many of the suit's accusations lump together the coaches and others.
Inverness Police Chief Bob Haas said he does not believe there is reason to be concerned about Stutzman's inclusion in the complaint.
"It's civil and it has to go through the process," Haas said. "And I have utmost, full confidence in him being on the police force."
Haas said Stutzman, who didn't return messages seeking comment, informed him about being a defendant.
Meanwhile, District 95 Superintendent Kaine Osburn issued a statement questioning "the primary interests served by sensationalized comments and news conferences" by the Chicago law firm handling the case.
Doe Child A was forced into the Lake Zurich High locker room shower and abused by football teammates in 2016, the lawsuit claims. Doe Child B was sexually abused by another student before 2016 and was targeted in the Oct. 27 hazing, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
Stutzman became aware the teammate reported what happened to Doe Child A to his mother, the suit says.
"Upon information and belief, defendant Stutzman berated and scolded the student who informed his mother of Doe Child A's assault for telling on his teammates," court documents state.
According to the lawsuit, Doe Child A's parents had a telephone conference call with former high school dean and assistant football coach Chad Beaver regarding the what they called the Oct. 4 abuse of their son. Beaver, who resigned last month and could not be located for comment, is alleged to have said 14 teammates witnessed what occurred and "even I got peed on in high school."
Stutzman has been with the Inverness police since 2009, according to a District 95 application he completed last June to become a volunteer football coach. The application, obtained through a Daily Herald open-records request, shows he joined the Inverness police after retiring from a roughly 30-year law-enforcement career in Wheeling.
Illinois law lists several professions as mandated reporters to the Department of Children and Family Services if juvenile abuse or neglect is suspected. Police officers, medical personnel, school workers and clergy who may work with children as part of their professional duties are included on the list.
Bhavani Raveendran, an attorney who represents the players alleged to have been hazed in the federal lawsuit, said Stutzman, Beaver and former head coach David Proffitt are the only coaches named so far because it's believed "they had notice or knowledge of the hazing." Other coaches may be added, she said.
Raveendran said Stutzman's job as a police officer was not a factor in the suit because as a volunteer football coach, he had obligations as someone supervising children.
Lake Zurich police announced in December they did not have evidence to pursue charges against any athletes, partly due to a lack of cooperation from witnesses.
Bonding rituals on the Lake Zurich football team over the past 20 years have included players urinating on teammates and forced oral sex, according to the 67-page lawsuit.
District 95's Osburn said in his statement the law firm handling the lawsuit should not blanketly accuse school athletic programs.
"The civil suit made many sweeping statements, including about other athletic programs over the course of a few decades, without reference to time or place, unfairly calling into question the dedication of any number of athletes, coaches and programs," Osburn said. "Accepting without question facts made in the suit and published in the media is not constructive. Our legal process is designed to determine the veracity of statements presented."
In response to Osburn, the Romanucci and Blandin law firm said in a statement it had a duty to act with the lawsuit when the moral conduct and responsibility of educators and adults in supervisory roles were called into question.
"It would be irresponsible to not share this story and therefore perpetuate the silence the athletes at Lake Zurich High School have had to maintain," the law firm said. "The only way to stop hazing is to expose these incidents and involve the community in the conversation."
District 95 officials hired an Arlington Heights law firm to conduct an outside investigation because of what they called inappropriate and "egregious" behavior in the football dressing room. Last month, the district released a report from the firm that says, in part, football team hazing escalated in 2016.