As many as two-thirds of the high school athletes at a summer football camp knew some of their young teammates were undergoing vicious sexually abusive hazing, and even coaches were aware some form of hazing was going on, but they didn't suspect the severity of the attacks, according to a report today.
Three teenagers have admitted sodomizing three underclassmen with pinecones, broomsticks and golf balls, but according to the report in Newsday, there may have been more students involved and there was also a racial element to some of the hazing that occurred during the five days at a pre-season football camp in Pennsylvania last August.
According to court documents obtained by the newspaper, an 11th-grader told investigators he saw a fourth teenager sodomize one of the three victims. That boy, a sophomore, has not been charged.
A black player was allegedly also targeted with racial epithets during the camp, and the varsity players forced the three victims and other junior varsity players to put on white sheets and scream, "We're gonna lynch you, — " and "the Klan is back," the newspaper said witnesses told investigators.
Sources told the newspaper other students are being investigated and could face charges in the case.
The hazing began almost as soon as the players from Mepham High School in Bellmore, N.Y., reached the camp in Preston Park, Pa., and escalated throughout the five days, the paper reported, citing documents and interviews with witnesses and school officials.
Younger students who witnessed the assaults were too scared to come forward, fearing they would become victims, according to the report.
One boy who was in one of the two cabins where the assaults occurred described trying to hide in his bed, hoping the older athletes wouldn't notice him and make him one of the victims.
"I was in the bunk and I laid so flat, hoping they wouldn't see me — flat and straight, hoping they wouldn't see me," the boy said, a source close to the investigation told Newsday.
But like all the others who reportedly were aware something wrong was happening, he did not tell anyone.
"No one had the strength to come forward," one school official told Newsday.
A senior who was at the camp told the paper he was told at lunch one day that younger players were being hazed, but he couldn't believe what he heard.
"I didn't think it was as serious as they were saying," he said. "We knew there was going to be hazing, like 'mess with the little kids,' but nothing like this."
The victims themselves said nothing, even after they got back to Long Island, because even as badly as they were brutalized, they feared worse if they told on their attackers. Authorities learned about what happened only after two of the boys had to be treated for injuries they suffered in the assaults.
The five coaches who accompanied the 60 students on the trip have claimed they were not aware of the severity of the hazing.
"God is my judge," one coach who did not want to be identified told Newsday. "Short-sheeting is hazing, toothpaste in your shoes is hazing. Maybe if the coaches expected anything, it was stuff like that."
The coaches all stayed in one cabin, while the boys were split up 10 to 12 to a cabin, with a mix of older and younger athletes in each. The attacks occurred in the two cabins farthest from the one where the coaches stayed.
The documents cited by the newspaper record the hazing in horrific detail.