Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Closing the chapter on the alleged football hazing incident at Conestoga High School — Is it finally over?


Conestoga High SchoolThe following statement was released this morning from the Chester County District Attorney’s office regarding the Conestoga High School football hazing incident. As I read the statement, it appears that the three juveniles have received an offense of harassment. According to the statement, the broomstick did not penetrate the victim but rather it was used to poke him in the leg — painting a much different picture.

Coaches lost their jobs and had their reputations tarnished over the alleged football hazing incident. The statement says that the victim and charged juveniles and their families would like to move on their with lives and will be making no further statements but where does this leave the former football coaches, Conestoga football players (and their families) and the students and staff?

Hazing and bullying has no place in our high school but moving on may not be that easy.

CHS hazing

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  1. The DA rushed to judgment In this case because he thought it would give him a huge career boost. That press conference was a complete disgrace. There was no vetting of this young man and his father. People in the community know the real story. Were the “kids” wrong? Yes but not to a criminal degree. They should sue the father of the child who made the accusation which was patently false. A complete disgrace and I 100% blame the politician who fed off of this. Cannot wait to vote against him.

  2. Considering that initially the victim claimed sodomy with a broomstick, is the public to believe that he lied to the DA? How old was this kid? 15, 16? All of the time, money, reputations and the kid was poked in the leg and not hurt.

  3. No!! The family wants to move on? The DA wanted it to disappear.
    He knew the family would agreed to lesser charge to save more lawyer fees and knowing it was juvenile it will not stay on kids records. That was his out.He had no case!!!
    The coach has to sue. Defamation of character. That press conference!! He loved to coach now he cannot. His name has been ruined.There is a big difference between a bunch of boys acting like jerks (AKA Duke) and rape of a young man. And for those who say, yes there was still hazing. Yes. Think, do you really want someone standing in the locker room watching your son get naked? NO. He cannot be everywhere. Find me a coach in high school who has an adult watching HS boys shower. Coach did everything he could except I guess keep his ears open for talk.

    Shame on the district if they do not vote this DA out. You do realize your money was wasted.

  4. This DA is a clown.
    Sure change is good and kids shouldn’t haze. It ruined a lot of things for all teams. Such as spirit days, but it didn’t ruin the stoga strong and pride our students have.

    We got a full time athletic director again which was needed.
    However what about the lie? What about the lives of the boys involved? The media firestorm. I love that the DA said he hopes he never sees this behavior again. Was he speaking of himself?

  5. Father and so-called ‘victim’ son are scum…liars and scam artists.
    For a few bucks more we should all gladly pay for their “tuition” at Graterford.

  6. In November, the victim filed a civil lawsuit against the school district and coaches in federal court. The allegations in the victim’s Complaint differ from those in the Joint Statement released by the DA. The Complaint is available through this link:

    Note: I am not involved in this lawsuit in any way. Every morning at work I receive a list of newly-filed lawsuits. I saw this suit on that list and then downloaded the Complaint from the docket, which is available to the general public.

        1. If I were one of the coaches named in a Federal lawsuit, I would want my own attorney — but the cost could be staggering. The school district will need to hire a high caliber civil rights attorney (at taxpayers expense). This is no case for Ken Roos!

    1. Local Res

      Please click on the link above from Steve Shapiro dated January 4, 2017 and read the complaint. It’s deeply disturbing.

      I agree that the press conference seemed over the top. I don’t know Tom Hogan, have never spoken to him but assumed he was getting a jump on the gossip and rumors that go around with a sensational and attention grabbing case like this. Maybe he wanted to get the facts out to the public.

      I think he did a great job and people who don’t even know him or understand that will miss him. He was firm but fair. And most don’t know that.

  7. Phil Inquirer reporter Leslie Gudel posted the following comment on her public Facebook page re the joint statement – interesting read!

    I admit it, I was wrong. When Chester County DA Tom Hogan announced charges against three Conestoga football players back in March, I was quick to judge them, believing that, at the very least, where there was smoke there had to be fire. I also had a hard time believing anyone would lie about something so horrific. (I need to add that I never reported on this or called the kids out publicly, only shared my views with friends)

    The alleged victim had told investigators he was sodomized with a broomstick by these players, all three whose lives were forever altered once charges were announced – a scholarship gone, jobs lost when the whole coaching staff was dismissed and one of the boys even lost his dad to a heart attack in the midst of the legal battle.

    All along the boys contended the sodomy story was a lie and now we know they were right, it was a lie made up by a kid who was expelled for another incident. Were the three players guilty of harassing this student for not pitching in to clean the locker room, apparently yes, because that’s what they’ve admitted. But why the hell is DA Hogan not standing up and saying HE was wrong? Instead Hogan appears to be rather proud of the fact that he got the kids to agree to accepting responsibility for summary harassment. And even worse, the news outlets are running with headlines such as this one, “Chesco football players plead guilty to locker room attack.” Wait, what??

    Hogan has a chance to make a very wrong situation right again. The boys were falsely accused by Hogan… their lives and those of their families, turned on their ear. But instead of publicly exonerating the three now-former students, something they deserve, he instead chose not to comment, using the excuse that it’s a juvenile matter. Well, that fact sure as hell didn’t stop him from shouting the details atop a podium when he thought he had a case. It didn’t stop him from damaging the reputation of a great school like Conestoga. In the end, the lion became the coward who, rather than help repair the lives he’s shattered, chose to hide and only release a well spun statement saying, “We all hope never to see an incident like this in Chester County again.” Hogan should be ashamed of himself.

    To the innocent kids who were hurt by all this, I’m sorry I doubted you. I hope you rise above all this, become better men because of it and never let it get in your way again.

    Leslie offered the following additional information in the case:

    I’ve spoken with the father of one of the boys accused and he said they never agreed to accepting responsibility for summary harassment but the DA went with the release anyway. He said that in the end, his son walks away having paid a court fee of $35. He did not disclose how much was spent in legal fees.

  8. This is an interesting situation where public opinion swings hard in one direction or the other depending on additional bits of incomplete information. The swing can be seen in the reporter’s (Leslie Gudel’s) Facebook post reproduced above. After the Hogan news conference she believed the victim had certainly been harassed and probably sodomized and the older football players were guilty. After this week’s news release she is sure the incident was a “lie made up by a kid who was expelled for another incident”; the older football players are the “victims”; the football coaches were unfairly fired and DA Hogan is a “coward”. I was swinging along with the reporter. Now I’m swinging back after reading the Federal lawsuit.
    It could be that Hogan did not have enough corroborating evidence to meet the criminal standard of guilt of “beyond a reasonable doubt” and therefore declined to prosecute. Now the Federal lawsuit proceeds under the “preponderance of evidence standard”. One thing is sure. It’s not over.

    1. I agree with you Keith. Leslie makes a convincing argument in her comment but once you read the Federal lawsuit the pendulum swings the other way. Do I understand this correctly — that although there was a joint statement from the accused and the DAs office agreeing to harassment charges, the Federal lawsuit against TESD and the football coaches moves forward on its own. I wonder if the ‘joint statement’ lessens the strength of the lawsuit.

      It’s also interesting to note that the lawsuit states “jury trial demanded”. Juvenile against the school district and adult male coaches and it goes to trial …

    2. Sorry Keith:

      Did you have a child at Conestoga while this went down? The two days the media was camped outside and this made national news? Where the kids needed escorts to the bus or car?

      Saying you were brutally sodomized by a broom stick to being ‘hit or poked’ is very different. It ruined several people’s lives, not to mention the high school football coach who lived and breathed for Conestoga, Something so painful happened right in front of teachers, coaches and other students, yet it didn’t.

      While this was all very eye opening. Very refreshing that our ranked high school could finally hire a full time athletic director again.
      Instead of a part time (full time) assistant principal.
      Who seemed to hate his job as it was.
      The boy who called wolf apparently is caught on tape saying this was all a lie and he wanted the district to pay for his legal bills. The ones where he had porn on his cell phone of actual students of middle school girls in our district.

      You had three upstanding boys, that were good people, good students who played a sport they loved. Coached by a man who devoted his life to the school and team.
      Or a boy who had been in trouble once, twice three, many times and expelled.
      Hogan seemed to love the attention. He had a smoking gun. He was going to take down CHS! Yet in the end a lot of smoke but no fire.
      Start sweeping up every sports team in every high school in America. There is always a pecking order, or pranks or horse play that goes way to far. Certainly glad we’re on top of that now! Instead of real student issues.

      While no hazing should ever be tolerated, the DA shouldn’t be quick to rush to guilt and invite the news media in a circus frenzy.
      PS: Hogan was seen outside the courthouse meeting news reporters and gloating in his ten seconds of failed fame apparently loving being in the national spot light.

  9. It seems to me that the interpretation of the joint statement lies in the eye of the beholder, but that’s not my purpose in commenting here.

    It is noteworthy that on the same day as this announcement, the routine School Board preliminary budget approval meeting was energized by another sports-related discussion: approval of the new high school baseball coach. All district hires must be approved at a public school board meeting, and this is usually part of the Consent Agenda that receives no discussion. However, a group of parents had used the public comment period to express concerns with the selection process and its outcome, and one thing led to another and Rev Dorsey got this one appointment moved off to a separate discussion item. The ensuing discussion centered on the selection process, which had included the involvement of one parent and Board member Kevin Buraks. There was no discussion of the alternative choices and the basis of the hiring recommendation. Rev Dorsey’s suggestion to defer the approval to the next Board meeting in just three weeks to allow for some explanation to the parents received no support, and the Board then voted 9-0 to approve the recommendation.

    This represents another interesting governance challenge for the Board. The good news is, they recognized a concern in the community about something tucked away on a post-Holiday Consent Agenda and brought the matter into the half-light (if not the sunlight). The bad news is that the discussion left all the concerns of the parents completely unanswered. The citing of “personnel matters” works as a very effective invisibility cloak, and so – just like in the hazing case – there’s plenty of room for speculation to run rampant. Surely there is no harm to cite the attributes that swayed the decision, be they experience in the district coaching other sports and as a current teacher, college sports experience, innovative ideas for the program, baseball-expert assistant coaches, trust of the AD, ACA costs and compliance, or whatever? The CHS baseball program has been very successful and prospective college student athletes have a lot riding on it continuing to be so.

    Of course, there is a whole other dimension to this: the interest generated by a sports coaching appointment versus a teaching appointment. I wouldn’t expect to see this level of interest were we to need a new head of Physics!

    In any event, there is a reason that hires on the taxpayer dime have to be approved in a public meeting, and perhaps we should expect more forthright discussion when there are community concerns, rather than a simple rubber-stamping of Administration recommendations?”

  10. Yes, I believe the federal lawsuit moves forward on its own. The criminal case in local court charged only the 3 older students. The Federal case involves a different set of defendants – the district (deep pockets) and coaches.
    I would think that the joint statement strengthens the Federal case. The 3 older students admitted harassing the plaintiff, holding him down and poking him in the leg with a broomstick. Read the previous sentence again and create a mental picture of what was occurring in the locker room. I can see the plaintiff’s attorney asking the broomstick handler, “Just where on the leg did you poke him?” “Near the ankle”? “Or the calf?” “On the thigh?” “Could it have been above the thigh?” “The inside or outside of the leg?” “Was the plaintiff face up or face down?” I see a big out-of-court settlement.
    “Jury trial demanded” just means the plaintiff wants a jury to decide rather than the judge as would happen in a bench trial.

    1. I’d think that a jury trial would be beneficial to the plaintiff – why risk your fate to one person? Wouldn’t a jury be more sensitive to the plaintiff?

  11. I think the D.A should be ashamed of himself and voted out next election. when this story broke he never used words like aledged or accused he simply said these boys sodimized him. he made himself judge and jury. while he goes about his daily’s lives have been destroyed because of his blatant disregard for the truth in place of a story which would further his carrier. I can,t think of many lower forms of life than this.

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