Mohawk to Resume Football Season as District Attorney Concludes Investigation | Local news

The Mohawk Area School District announced plans to resume its college football season after the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office concluded its investigation into hazing allegations involving team members.

Both the district attorney and the school district released statements Friday. The district administration believes that “it is safe and appropriate to resume college football operations. The district is currently making arrangements to field a team and resume the competition.”

The district did not provide details in its statement about when the next football game would be scheduled.

In a letter to the district dated Friday, District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa wrote that detectives from his office conducted the investigation into allegations of hazing and abuse allegedly committed by several members of the district’s varsity football team.

The investigation showed that three minors were reported to have committed a series of acts of abuse, humiliation and assault against five victims, all members of the Mohawk varsity football team, Lamancusa wrote. Those incidents occurred in the utility/equipment room on school property between noon and 1 pm on August 17.

“It has been widely rumored that these acts involved the use of foreign objects and ritualized sexual abuse,” Lamancusa’s letter stated, “however, not a shred of evidence exists to support these baseless rumors.

“Specifically, there is no evidence of criminal sexual abuse, indecent assault, and/or aggravated assault,” he wrote.

Lamancusa said minors reported to have committed acts of hazing and abuse will be criminally charged by juvenile petition in connection with the reported incidents. Their cases will be heard by judges in the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas.

Details of the charges and the identities of the reported offenders will not be released publicly because they are all minors, he said.

His letter explains that the initial allegations were that multiple senior football players committed the acts against freshman teammates while on school property, Lamancusa wrote. District Attorney detectives, responding to the reports, interviewed 20 members of the football team, three athletic trainers/coaches and numerous school administrators.

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They also reviewed child welfare reports from Lawrence County Children and Youth Services, examined dozens of “ChildLine” notification reports, read text messages and accessed all of the district’s Title IX research on the matter, it said. your letter.

Interviews with team members were conducted without the supervision of school officials, with parental consent and, in some cases, in the presence of legal counsel, Lamancusa wrote.

The scope of the investigation expanded beyond specific allegations of hazing and abuse, Lamacusa wrote. Inquiries and investigations were launched into the district’s culture, its football team and whether any school district employees were aware of or complicit in any ritualized abuse or hazing activities with the district, the letter said.

At the conclusion of the investigation, there was no evidence of an evil culture or knowledge and/or complicit behavior on the part of any district employee, he wrote.

It became apparent “that despite long periods of time in which adult supervision of student athletes was lacking, there was no evidence of pre-existing knowledge or acceptance of” incidents of hazing and abuse by the district or any of its employees. Lamancusa concluded.

Your letter encourages district administration and the school board to review the full investigation when it becomes available and to take whatever disciplinary action it deems appropriate for those who witnessed and participated in the abuse and did nothing to interfere with or stop it.

The school district’s statement, also issued Friday, reports that the administration became aware of the hazing incidents on Aug. 17, the same dates they were reported to have occurred.

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Upon learning of the allegations, the administration immediately contacted Lawrence County Children and Youth Services and the district attorney’s office. Both the school district and the district attorney’s office questioned team members and coaches about the matter, the district reported.

While some have felt the investigation took too long, the school district’s position is that the primary concerns of ensuring student safety and determining what really happened were worth the time and attention involved, the district concluded.

“In particular, the district attorney found that the conduct (that) occurred was not part of an institutional practice and had not previously occurred,” the district stated. “The conduct was limited to a small number of individual players, and no adults had prior knowledge of any hazing. Also, the district attorney has specifically found that many of the rumors (that) have been circulating are unfounded. While the incident is disturbing and unacceptable, it is not part of the district’s culture and the appropriate parties have been and will be held accountable.”

The school administration has taken steps to address the issues with both the students involved in the incident and all players, according to the statement. Counseling, support, and other resources were offered to students, and an NCAA Hazing Assembly was held on August 31, to which all members of the football team were invited to attend.

“The district understands that it will be a long process to recover from these events, but we have begun taking the necessary steps to ensure this event is addressed and never occurs again,” the statement said. He concludes that “The district appreciates the community’s patience, support, and commitment to the health and safety of students as this process takes place.”

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