EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 1, 2011

Expulsions, suspensions meted out in Andover hazing case

By Gretchen M. Putnam and Brian Messenger
Staff writers

— For superintendent's letter to parents, click HERE.

For district safety policy statement, click HERE.

ANDOVER — Two Andover High students have been expelled and at least five others kicked off the basketball team for their roles in a "disturbing" case of hazing against two underclassmen at a basketball camp last July, sources have confirmed.

The punishments may not end there. Sources confirm the Bristol County District Attorney's office will pursue criminal charges and the state Attorney General's office has launched its own investigation.

Nine Andover High players attended the Hoop Mountain basketball camp at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., where the incident occurred. The Eagle-Tribune reported older students forced two underclassmen to play a humiliating sex game known as "wet biscuit," where the loser was made to eat a semen-covered cookie.

The two ringleaders of the hazing were expelled while the others involved received suspensions for an unknown amount of time and will not be allowed to compete in school sports for the remainder of the school year, sources said.

In a letter to parents yesterday, Superintendent Marinel McGrath said her investigation confirmed students violated the schools' anti-hazing and anti-bullying policies, and called the players' actions "both disappointing and disturbing."

However, she refused to say what punishments were meted out.

"While I fully understand and appreciate that you are legitimately interested in the outcomes for the violations of these policies, I am prohibited by federal and state laws from disclosing information about individual student discipline," McGrath wrote. "I can tell you, however, that in the case of violations of our anti-bullying and anti-hazing policies, our school district policies permit a range of disciplinary actions which include suspension and expulsion from school."

Andover High Athletic Director Christopher Bergeron also did not specify how many players were punished or how. In his letter to parents, he wrote he "intends" to suspend team members involved for "varying period of time due to apparent violations of Andover High School athletic policies and rules.

"As stated in the rules, which apply to all athletic programs, participation in the AHS Athletic Program is a privilege, not a right, and the highest standards of conduct will be enforced," Bergeron wrote.

McGrath's letter also states, "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, refused to comment for this story. Fazio also works as a physical education teacher at the school.

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.

Fazio's lawyer Michael Morris previously stated his client "acted promptly, compassionately, professionally, legally and morally by responding to the boy and his parents, some of the parents of other boys involved, to the Andover Police and his superiors all at the first opportunity."

Andover Police are helping Easton Police — located in Bristol County — with the investigation. Andover police Lt. James Hashem said last night the incident remains under investigation. A call to the Easton Police Department was not returned.

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.

McGrath has not commented publicly on the incident, except for her letters to parents. School Committee Chairwoman Annie Gilbert said McGrath briefed the committee during a closed-door executive session shortly after the allegations surfaced.

"I have full faith in the process the superintendent has conducted, and I have every confidence that she made her decisions with the best intentions of the students and the community in mind," Gilbert said last night.

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

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