HANOVER, Va. (WWBT) – In Hanover County, the Mechanicsville High School football team’s season has been suspended before it ever had a chance to begin over allegations of hazing.
The Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Hanover County School Division are investigating.
According to a spokesperson with the school division, it all stems from allegations of assault that took place among the upperclassmen on the football team and its younger members.
NBC12 was made aware of the allegations Tuesday by a concerned parent of one of the team’s players. The parent chose not to disclose his identity. He says his son was not involved in the alleged assault and also did not witness the incident, but says coaches and administration had a meeting with players earlier this week.’
“It’s perfectly understandable that the school system can’t give out a lot of details, all we’re asking is what happened in the grand scheme of things,” the parent said. “That is my biggest problem right now is the communication with parents.”
The parent says other parents were alerted that the hazing may have taken place when rumors began to spread among players. Despite the allegations and rumors, he says parents were still under the impression that practices would resume as late as Tuesday and that there was no indication that the season would be impacted.
“Tuesday’s practice they had pictures scheduled and then practice after. They had students show up to do pictures and then had practice canceled after the fact,” the parent said.
That’s why this parent reached out to 12 On Your Side to help get answers.
In our initial contact with the Hanover Sheriff’s department Tuesday, authorities said the incident appeared to have been blown out of proportion, chalking it up to a hazing situation.
It was not until after NBC12 reached back out to the school division Wednesday morning that the Sheriff’s department confirmed that they received an anonymous tip that upperclassmen were allegedly assaulting other students at Mechanicsville High. They also said the Office was in the process of interviewing multiple individuals.
Because the nature of the investigation possibly involves multiple juvenile students, the Sheriff’s office says it will not be releasing any names or identifying information.
“I feel that if I hadn’t reached out to NBC12 that we wouldn’t have any information right now from the school board, the administration, from any part of it,” The parent said. “I think we would still be in the dark waiting for a public announcement.”
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson with the school division says that it was alerted by the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office of these concerns, which were reported anonymously, on Friday evening and that immediate action was taken by suspending all football practices, which remain in effect while the investigation takes place.
“We take these claims seriously, and we have been fully cooperating with the Sheriff’s Office from the outset of its investigation,” a spokesperson for Hanover County Public Schools said on Wednesday
The school division says it has conducted more than 60 interviews but is unable to divulge specific details available to us without jeopardizing the investigation and violating confidentiality laws involving juveniles.
“We can share that anyone found to be in violation of the Code of Student Conduct and/or School Board Policy will be held fully accountable,” the spokesperson said.
“It’s portrayed to me that they were trying to save a football season at any cost,” a parent said. “I have no problem at all with a school having a football team, I think it’s a great thing but I don’t think that should be a priority in school. I think the priority should be the education and safety of students.”
While the parent says he understands why the school division took their time, he believes that the administration could have been more transparent with the player’s families before rumors began to spread.
“That’s why it feels like the school system tried to hide this under the rug,” the parent said.
He says an emergency meeting was held in the auditorium around 5 pm Wednesday at the high school where parents were notified by the administration that the season had been suspended pending the investigation
“I support that decision to suspend the football season fully until we find out what happened when it happened and what could be done to prevent that,” the parent said.
All football games, JV and varsity, have been postponed until further notice. The division says it is also conducting a parallel investigation with the Sheriff’s department.
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