The Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95’s board of education agreed to a settlement and a general release of claims with two students over a hazing incident that occurred while they were members of the 2016 varsity football team, and resulted in a civil lawsuit seeking monetary damages and “injunctive relief to end hazing rituals.” The action, approved during the Dec. 21 meeting, authorizes payment to each plaintiff the amount of $199,500.
The identical agreements with both plaintiffs (minors) also stipulates no further litigation, no disparaging comments about the district, its staff, or employees, along with a confidentiality clause regarding the agreement and the actual items of contention. It also carried a “no admission.”
The agreement stated, in part, “It shall not in any way be construed or used as an admission of any fault, wrongdoing, or liability of any kind or nature by the board … serve as evidence, or notice of any wrongful, unlawful, or unconstitutional act, omission, or conduct by or on the part of the board or any past, current, or future employees and volunteers in any court or other proceeding of any kind.”
District spokesperson Jean Malek said, “It is the belief of the (school) district and the board of education that it is in the best interest of all parties involved to settle this matter.”
The lawsuit was announced Feb. 1, 2016 against the district, three coaches, two district officials, and unnamed athletic support personnel, on behalf of the two students and their parents alleging a culture of hazing that had carried on since 1998.
Attorneys from the Chicago-based firm of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC had filed the civil suit, and also announced the settlement with Lake Zurich Community Unit School District 95 in a statement, and came “on the heels of broad policy changes requiring anti-hazing training for district coaches, staff, students and student-athletes.”
Attorney Antionio Romanucci said, “The settlement helps to begin the lengthy healing process for these students and their families. It’s also consistent with changes at Lake Zurich High School, across athletics, and extra-curricular programs. The victims involved in this experience, along with their families, are happy that they can put this chapter behind them, and concentrate on building a bright future for themselves.”
Numerous allegations of sexual assault and sexual abuse were performed upon, and by, members of various athletic teams at the high school. The enumerated charges included forced oral sex, sodomy with objects, urination on players, and “duck-taping” team players, naked to posts. In some cases, coaches were allegedly involved in hazing rituals.
The issue came to light, after a team dinner in late October 2016, and a staff member alerted the school’s board of a hazing incident. The team was to play Fenwick in the IHSA Class 7A playoffs Nov. 5, of that year, and rather than forfeit, the district allowed the game to be played while head football coach David Profitt, and assistant coach Chad Beaver, were placed on paid administrative leave.
The district initiated a “hazing” protocol lesson online, and players were made to sign a statement, or be ineligible to play in the contest, which the team subsequently lost. An investigation involving the Lake Zurich High School varsity football team was later “suspended,” by the village’s Public Safety Department.
A Dec. 2 announcement of “no criminal charges pending” was made by the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office. Village Police Chief Steve Husak had said the investigation lacked someone coming forward to press criminal charges, negating any charges being filed. The Juvenile Advocacy Division, of the state’s attorney’s office, oversaw procedures and found a resistance in forthcoming answers from interviewees.
The lawsuit named the two coaches as defendants, along with Rolando Vasquez, the former athletic director, the district’s superintendent Kaine Osburns, a coach, William Stutzman, as well as 10 other “John Doe” coaches. The underlying concern, as per the lawsuit, was the pervasive nature of “turning a blind eye” to the hazing incidents, and adults in a position of responsibility did not stop the alleged occurrences.
The litigation also cited that the occurrences were not reported to the state of Illinois under the Abused and Neglected Child Report Act, a component of the state teaching licensure.
In December, LZHS head football coach David Profitt, dean and assistant coach Chad Beaver, and athletic director Rolando Vasquez announced their resignations. The school principal, Kent Nightlinger, announced his retirement at a Dist. 95 board meeting that month, effective spring 2017.
The only school to suspend their varsity football program over allegations of hazing was Niles North High School Sept. 25, after the Village of Skokie Police Department notified the school district of possible hazing allegations. A police investigation similarly found no criminal charges, however the district conducted its own investigation, during the suspension, and took action.
The football program was reinstated mid-season Oct. 13, for the school’s homecoming contest, and possession of the traveling trophy, in the “Skokie Skirmish.” The Niles West Wolves beat the Vikings 33-14.
—Lake Zurich District 95 agrees to hazing suit settlement–