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Deseret News

2 Salem High football players suspended amid allegations of hazing, harassment

By Sandra Yi | Posted - Sep 17th, 2013 @ 10:43pm



SALEM, Utah County — Two Salem Hills High School football players were suspended Tuesday after administrators learned of an alleged hazing incident.

The investigation also brought to light another alleged incident involving Salem Hills football players, though no suspensions have been issued in that matter.

Lana Hiskey, spokeswoman for the Nebo School District, said there are ongoing investigations for the separate incidents.

The first is the alleged hazing at a football camp in Millard County in August, an incident Hiskey said district officials learned about Monday after they got an anonymous text message.

"As soon as we know about anything we investigate very quickly," Hiskey said. "We want to make sure that kids feel safe and we're so thrilled that they would come forward, even anonymously at first."

As that investigation was underway, the school learned of another unrelated case involving other football players. A female student said she had been sexually harassed by the players, Hiskey said.

The district said there isn't enough evidence so far to take action but the investigation is ongoing.

"We wanted to look at that and make sure that students are feeling safe and things are not happening that shouldn't be happening," Hiskey said.

The second alleged incident happened off campus as the students were going to lunch, she said, and there are "too many fuzzy details" to comment further.

“The investigation (into both alleged incidents) is continuing to go on because we’re having difficulty getting all of the facts from the students,” Hiskey said.

The Millard County Sheriff's Office is assisting with the football camp investigation, she said. An email from the sheriff's office Tuesday evening indicated the students will be investigated under Utah's lewdness law.

School officials are stressing the need for students, parents and anyone involved to come forward when such incidents occur, Hiskey said.

“What's difficult is when they won't come forward and say what happened," she said. "They push it aside and say, ‘Oh, kids were just goofing around.'"

Hiskey said Nebo School District has policies in place to deal with student discrimination and harassment, as well as bullying, hazing and retaliation.

"We talk about no retaliation, that we will protect the students," she said. "We're hoping (there won't be any retaliation), but it’s been very difficult to get (students) to come forward and talk about what really happened.”

After the Millard County Sheriff's Office finishes its investigation, the proper action will be taken, Hiskey said.

“We cannot have students at school that are harassing and bullying other students,” she said. “Nebo School District is very concerned about the safety of students because students are not going to learn if they feel unsafe, and they won’t come to school."

The two students were popular, according to their peers. Students said they didn't know many details about the hazing case, but that they couldn't believe any of their peers would be a part of it.

"I'm shocked," said student Juliana Millet. "We're in a little bubble community and nothing like that ever happens here."

One of the suspended students is a senior at the school. A poster proudly displaying his name and team number has been hung outside his home. Off camera, his father said his son didn't do anything wrong.

However, the Millard County Sheriff's Office said it is pursuing lewdness charges against both teens and the case will be referred to juvenile court.

"They got what they deserved because it's not legal and they shouldn't be doing it," Millet said.

The school district is still investigating the hazing case and said the two students could face more disciplinary action.

The father of one of those teens said they've hired an attorney.

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