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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The family of a 17-year old Milton football player who they say killed himself after being a victim of hazing and sexual assault on the team sought Thursday to highlight legislation calling for tougher reporting requirements for school officials.
Jordan Preavy's parents and stepmother traveled to Montpelier on Thursday, more than two years after his death, to watch as the bill was introduced by Rep. Ronald Hubert, R-Milton.
Five former Milton High School football players have been charged following an investigation into allegations of hazing and sexual assault of younger football players by older teammates in 2011 and 2012. The three have pleaded guilty to charges of simple assault and a fourth to disorderly conduct under agreements reached with Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan's office. A fifth, Brandon Beliveau, 21, of Milton, denied a charge of attempted sexual assault at his arraignment Jan. 6.
Donovan said Beliveau is accused of sodomizing Preavy — identified in court papers as "Victim No. 4" — with a broomstick.
The Associated Press generally doesn't identify victims of sexual assault, but Preavy's family members have spoken about him publicly. Hubert said the legislation filed Thursday should be known as "Jordan's bill."
Sean Preavy, Jordan's father; Tracy Stopford, his mother; and Karen Preavy, his stepmother, argued that Vermont's current law making educators mandatory reporters of alleged child abuse allows too much room for judgment by school officials. The new measure would make it automatic that when school officials hear any allegation of abuse, they report it to police and to the state Department for Children and Families.
"The law is not clear enough," said Karen Preavy. "When we send our kids to school, they need to be protected."
Preavy's family said he suffered the abuse as a member of the Milton High School football team in the fall of 2011. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in August of 2012, the Preavys said.
Donovan said Milton school officials never reported the matter to police or the state child-protection agency; instead authorities learned of it through other channels, he said. School officials have maintained they didn't have strong enough information to warrant making a report.
Milton School Superintendent John Barone didn't immediately return a message left at his office Thursday.
Donovan said he agreed with the need for the legislation.
"Let's just simplify, let's make it easy," Donovan said. "When there's a question, report it to the authorities. Let trained professionals do their jobs."
He added that earlier reporting of such abuse would get victims into often needed psychiatric treatment sooner.
"People are suffering, and that's not OK," Donovan said.
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