ST. GEORGE — St. George police are investigating an alleged hazing incident from June involving the Desert Hills High School cheerleading team after the father of a cheerleader told officials he would release a full video account of the incident.
His daughter was kicked off the cheerleading team for a separate violation. Officials said he threatened to release the video unless his daughter was reinstated on the team.
“What’s troubling is the more we’ve investigated and met and discovered, it’s come to light that there has been a pattern of intimidation, threats for weeks, and that’s so frustrating,” said Steven Dunham, Washington County School District communications director.
School district officials said they received the video last week from the father, noticed semi-nude underage girls on it, and immediately gave it to the St. George Police Department.
Police are now investigating the hazing, as well as why the father kept, released, and according to district officials, threatened them with the video.
“We’re going to take all of the information we gather through this investigation (and) we’re sending it down to the county attorney’s office to be screened for charges,” said St. George Police public information officer Tiffany Atkin. “That includes anyone and everyone that could be involved. We have to take this as a serious matter. Hazing is very serious.”
So far, no student or parent of a student involved in the hazing incident has come forward to police as a victim.
Atkin said that could be because they don’t feel like they are a victim or because they feel intimidated to stay quiet.
“I would hope that everyone feels safe enough to come to the police,” Atkin said. “Does that mean that charges might not be filed in other aspects of the case? Absolutely not. Some charges can be filed if there’s people that aren’t willing to be a victim. There could still be charges filed.”
We have to take this as a serious matter. Hazing is very serious.
School administrators said they investigated the hazing and thought it was resolved.
“Hazing should never be tolerated, and if this information would’ve come to light at the beginning, the situation we’re in now would never have happened,” Dunham said.
At the beginning of a school board meeting Tuesday night, members of the Washington County School District Board of Education read a statement on the incident:
“We are saddened by the recent incident of hazing. Please let there be no question that we will uphold and reinforce a zero-tolerance of hazing in any of our schools.
“We are concerned about the culture at our schools. It is apparent that there has been a desensitizing of parents and students over the years that has led to an acceptance of these types of behaviors. Let us be very clear – initiation proceedings of this nature are not acceptable and need to stop immediately. We are inviting our parents to take a stand with us and say, ‘No More!’
“We are unanimous in the hope that when students and parents know of these activities, they come forward and we will support them. We have an obligation to educate students, faculty and parents in order to create a culture of zero tolerance of hazing in any form.”
“We’re trying to move forward,” Dunham said. “Bullying is something where we need to stand up for what’s right and that’s hard. It’s hard. Especially when your children are involved, and you want to protect them. And yet, our children need to learn that there are consequences for bad behavior.”
Multiple people in the community know the name of the parent involved, but since no formal charges have been filed, KSL has decided not to name him.
The parent had not been returned any of KSL’s messages at the time this story was published.