The main entrance to Haverhill High School.

HAVERHILL — Parents are expressing disgust at what they’ve learned about a hazing involving Haverhill High School football players, while students say it’s not the first time this has taken place at the school.

John Bilodeau, a parent and former high school, college and semi-professional football player, said hazing happens in sports, but not at the level of what he understands occurred.

“I’m beyond disgusted at what I’ve heard,” Bilodeau said. “I don’t care what any coach says. You can’t tell me they don’t know what’s going on in their program.”

On Wednesday, a video came to the attention of school officials showing a young man being dragged across the floor and stripped before a teammate stands over his head wearing just his underwear and performs a lewd act. The football coaches were put on paid leave, and the balance of the season was canceled, meaning the team can’t play Lowell on Thanksgiving.

Police Chief Robert Pistone said all the players identified so far as having taken part in the assault are 18, and they are likely to face charges.

The hazing took place in a locker room at the football stadium, Pistone said. He did not say if it was the one beneath the bleachers, or the one in the new sports clubhouse.

Bilodeau said his son was harassed and bullied so much while on the Haverhill High football team when he was a freshman last year that he didn’t want to go to school anymore.

“Other players said hurtful and negative stuff to the point where we were fighting about his going to practice,” Bilodeau said. “We pulled him out and he’s home-schooled now. We don’t have to worry about this kind of nonsense anymore.”

Bilodeau said he would not be surprised to learn there was no adult supervision at the time of the hazing.

“From my experience kids get bused to the stadium and are there for an hour before any coaches arrive,” he said.

Parent Richard Carreiro said he considers the hazing to be a “horrible and intolerable act” and that the cancellation of the football season affects many more people than those involved in the attack.

“I have a son who is a junior on the varsity team and he’s quite devastated, and also confused,” Carreiro said. “For a lot of these kids, football is one of the only things they do outside of school and it means a lot to them. I’m especially sympathetic to the victim and his family.”

He said he does not agree with the decision to cancel the football season and punish all players for the acts of a few.

“This also affects Lowell’s team, as those student-athletes are probably just as devastated,” he said.

Carreiro said the video indicates the assault took place in the locker room beneath the stadium bleachers. He sent a letter to School Superintendent Margaret Marotta explaining his thoughts as a parent, while asking several questions.

“Aside from the information related to the ongoing investigation, I believe as football parents and taxpayers of Haverhill we have a right to know the details of what led to making the decision to cancel the rest of the football season,” he wrote Marotta.

Carrerio also asked Marotta if her office considered the innocent student-athletes when making the decision to cancel, which he said amounts to a few more practices and the Thanksgiving game against Lowell at the Haverhill Stadium.

He further asked her what message is being sent from the school department to student-athletes from both Haverhill and Lowell who weren’t involved at all with the hazing. and in light of the varsity coaches being placed on paid leave, he asked if the freshman football staff and/or athletic director had considered coaching the varsity team for the rest of the season.

“To the innocent student-athletes involved from both communities, the remainder of the season means so much more than just a football game to them,” Carreiro told Marotta. “Many of them were probably going to put on a football uniform for the last time in their lives. Now they may not get that chance.”

Senior Cameron Benson said Thursday after school let out that he’s been told hazing is not an uncommon thing within Hillie sports teams, although not as extreme as the recent incident. Rather, he said, it’s “very unfriendly behavior between teammates.”

“It’s good that some punishment is being given out, but if you cancel the whole football season you’re punishing a lot of people,” Benson said. “It’s probably best to let things be canceled and allow the investigation to happen.”

Senior Ray Hernandez also said she’s heard this isn’t the first time hazing has happened at the high school.

“It’s unfair to cancel the football season but it will bring awareness to the issue,” she said.

Attorney General Maura Healey, also governor elect, said in a statement, “Hazing is dangerous misconduct and has no place in Massachusetts. We will be reaching out to school and law enforcement officials to get more information about this incident and offer assistance.”

In April, Healey’s office first partnered with leading education and athletic groups to address hate and bias in school sports.

“Working with community partners and experts, the project will provide free training and support to school and athletic officials across the state,” she said.

Trending Video

Recommended for you