Damascus High School Principal Casey Crouse stepped down Tuesday, saying the school needs new leadership “to move forward” after four junior varsity football players were charged with raping their teammates last year in a school locker room hazing.
Crouse, the school’s principal for two years, announced her resignation, effective immediately, in a letter sent to Damascus High families. In her letter, she said she will transition to a different, undisclosed position within the school system.
“The horrific incident of October 31 has demanded significant attention from school and system leadership and has drawn ongoing negative media attention,” Crouse wrote. “Despite this attention, the focus inside the school during the school day has never wavered. However, it has become clear that in order for Damascus High School to move forward, it will require new school leadership.”
The school system on Tuesday also announced Damascus High’s athletic director, Joe Doody, has been placed on administrative leave as part of an internal investigation into whether there was a lack of adult supervision the afternoon of the alleged assaults.
Doody joins JV football coach Vincent Colbert who was placed on leave in mid-April.
The moves come in the wake of a Halloween afternoon hazing that has thrust the school into the national spotlight. Four football players, all 15 years old, were charged as adults after allegedly raping some teammates with a broomstick before practice. The four face first-degree rape, attempted rape and conspiracy charges, and will be tried in juvenile court.
The school system plans to hire an external consultant to investigate claims of a hazing culture within school system athletic programs.
Crouse, 48, Doody and Colbert were among several Damascus High officials named in a Washington Post story that said staff did not alert police about the attacks for more than 12 hours after learning about them.
Crouse has received backlash from some in the community for her handling of the incident, citing a lack of transparency and sense of urgency.
Late last year, a parent of a JV football player spoke during a school system news conference and said Crouse contributed to a sense of unease in the community by pinning blame on all of the JV football players for not stopping the alleged rapes.
Crouse said school system officials “support” her decision. A school system spokesman declined comment. Messages left with Damascus High staff were not returned.
“It has been my honor to serve as your principal,” Crouse wrote in her resignation letter, released on National Teacher Appreciation Day. “I have done my best to serve with strength, passion, professionalism and integrity.”
Kevin Yates, a principal intern at Julius West Middle School, will serve as acting principal at the 1,200-student school beginning Monday. Crouse said the school community “will have opportunities to hear from and about Mr. Yates in the coming days.”
Kathy Green, one of the school district’s top athletic department staffers, will run the Damascus athletics program in Doody’s absence, according to a letter sent to families from school system athletic director Jeff Sullivan.
“It is important to share that administrative leave is a non-punitive personnel action used to ensure investigations can proceed efficiently and without the appearance of prejudice,” Sullivan wrote.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was updated at 7 p.m. to include new information about the status of the school’s athletic director.