The Montgomery County school system has launched its internal investigation into the alleged locker room rapes at Damascus High School.
Superintendent Jack Smith on Tuesday said the county prosecutor’s office gave the green light to school officials to begin their investigation in late January.
The state’s attorney, which filed rape charges against five junior varsity football players, had asked the school system to wait while it conducted its preliminary criminal investigation, Smith said.
“We never want to do a simultaneous investigation because that becomes chaotic for them — the state’s attorney and the police,” Smith said at a meeting with reporters. “We’re fully committed to making sure our students are safe and our programs are a positive, good experience.”
Five Damascus High students are accused of attacking four teammates with a broomstick during a “hazing incident” on Halloween afternoon. Four of the players were charged as adults, but two have had their cases sent to juvenile court. Both said during court proceedings this month that “broomings” are tradition at the northern Montgomery County school known for its football prowess.
The school system’s internal investigation will focus on the lack of adult supervision during the time of the alleged rapes, rather than the criminal acts themselves, a school spokesman said. School officials declined further comment.
Community members have criticized school officials’ limited release of information about the criminal investigation and have questioned why students were left unsupervised, and Smith has declined comment about whether any disciplinary action taken against team supervisors.
Smith said the school district is still waiting for clearance from state investigators into whether there is a history of hazing or rape in school sports and extracurricular activities, but when that clearance is given, a holistic investigation will be conducted.
In November, the school system released a four-minute anti-bullying video to students in response to the alleged rapes, telling students bullying, harassment, hazing and abuse will not be tolerated in county schools.
School officials in the video outline what hazing might look like and how to report it to school personnel. Sponsors of extracurricular activities are now required to show the video and discuss hazing and bullying with students at the start of each new season.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org