EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 2, 2011

Hazing ringleader slams investigation

Facebook page urged players-only meeting

By Jill Harmacinski

ANDOVER — One of two alleged ringleaders in the Andover High hazing scandal created a secret Facebook page where some of his basketball teammates and other students criticized the investigation and organized a meeting of the team.

The student, who was expelled by school officials Wednesday, referred to the school investigation as "bull (expletive)" and urged fellow players to attend a meeting in the "Dunn gym right after school."

"... You better be there," the expelled student wrote Wednesday. Five of the 17 members of the Facebook group "liked" his comment.

The meeting invitation came the same day school officials announced punishments would be doled out to Andover High basketball players involved in pressuring two underclassmen to play a game of "wet biscuit," where the loser was forced to eat a semen-soaked cookie. The incident happened in July at a summer basketball camp on the Stonehill College campus in Easton, Mass. Nine members of the Andover High team were in attendance.

School officials have refused to detail what punishments were handed out. The Eagle-Tribune reported Wednesday at least five students were kicked off the basketball team and given school suspensions of varying amounts of time. The two ringleaders were expelled. Students facing expulsion or suspension are entitled to a hearing before their punishment takes effect. Calls to the expelled teens and their parents went unreturned. No one answered the door at either of the players' homes.

Other students belonging to the expelled student's Facebook group called the actions against the ringleaders "unfair" and urged others to keep their mouths "shut."

"Just don't talk about anything and we can fix this," a fellow high school athlete wrote on the page. "You guys look we can fix this, we just need everyone's help," the student added.

A criminal investigation into the incident continues. The investigation is being handled by Easton Police, with the Bristol County District Attorney's office and state Attorney General Martha Coakley's office being apprised of all developments.

"Our office reviewed this matter and spoke with the relevant parties to ensure appropriate action was taken," Coakley's spokeswoman Melissa Karpinsky wrote yesterday in a statement. "The matter is currently being investigated by the Bristol District Attorney's Office and that review continues to move forward."

Easton Police Chief Allen Krajcik said the investigation is ongoing and will take some time to complete.

"We are taking it seriously, doing our due diligence," the chief said. "We will continue to investigate and see what develops."

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office is also closely monitoring the situation now and "has made ourselves available to the Bristol County District Attorney's Office and Easton Police as needed," said Steve O'Connell, Blodgett's spokesman, last night.

Those convicted of hazing face up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. Anyone who witnesses hazing but does not report it faces a $1,000 fine if convicted under state law.

School Superintendent Marinel McGrath emailed parents Wednesday night to inform them of her investigation, which found the students violated the schools' anti-hazing and anti-bullying policies. She also said, "We will address, separately, the involvement of any Andover Public Schools employees in connection with these allegations."

David Fazio, coach of the Andover High boys' basketball team and a physical education teacher at the school, could not be reached for comment. Fazio learned of the hazing incident Nov. 11 and reported the incident to police and school officials. Sources said Fazio helped the boy who ate the cookie tell his parents, and then organized a meeting with them and the ringleaders and their parents.

The other boy pressured into playing the game has since left the Andover school district.

Andover High basketball players have been going to the Hoop Mountain basketball camp at Stonehill for six years. As a result of this incident, Stonehill College kicked Hoop Mountain off its campus. The college terminated its agreement with the Beverly-based basketball camp effective Nov. 22.

Staff writers Bill Kirk and Brian Messenger contributed to this report.