Lawsuit accuses school officials of ignoring sexual hazing

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DAMASCUS, Md. (AP) — The parents of three Maryland high school students who were sexually assaulted by their football teammates sued county school officials Thursday, saying they ignored warnings about the attack because of the school's esteemed football program.

The suit, filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, accuses Damascus High School officials of neglect, ignoring threats and mishandling the assaults because of the successful football program, news outlets reported.

In 2018, three junior varsity football players were sexually assaulted in a team locker room, authorities said, adding the attack involved a broomstick as part of a hazing ritual. Four players indicted in the case pleaded guilty last year to involvement in the assault.

The lawsuit said coaches and administration were aware of the hazing ritual going back to 2016. It said officials neglectfully left the locker room unsupervised for up to an hour a day despite knowing their had been previous assaults. Officials also ignored a threat by a player charged in the attack who had 12 school suspensions in previous years and who had been accused of sexual harassment, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said that when school officials learned of the attack, they downplayed what happened and delayed calling authorities and parents.

“They placed winning above the health and safety of some of their most vulnerable students,” said William H. “Billy” Murphy, one of the attorneys representing the families. At the time, the varsity team had the longest active winning streak in the nation at 51 games.

The lawsuit names the board of education, a former principal of the school, two former coaches and a former athletic director.

A spokesman for the school system said Thursday morning officials will review the lawsuit before commenting.

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