MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – Ten former Middletown football players are facing charges after a hazing investigation found three students were sexually assaulted during an August 11 practice, according to the Dauphin County District Attorney’s office.
The District Attorney’s office says police determined that over a period of approximately 20 minutes three students were sexually assaulted in the turf room when students were alone without the presence of any adults. Police learned three other students were assaulted over the last year including at least one at a residence.
District Attorney Francis Chardo says all of the assaults involve the same two main perpetrators.
School district officials have said an additional hazing incident was recorded in a heat acclimation room. The District Attorney’s office says as many as six other students may have been assaulted at a summer football camp, and some victims have been reluctant to cooperate with the police.
According to Chardo, two 17-year-olds, have been charged with multiple counts of criminal attempt to commit involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, unlawful restraint, simple assault, and hazing.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Gettle indicated, “this investigation did not involve just hazing or ‘boys will be boys’ conduct. Rather, two of these individuals committed repeated sexual assaults and encouraged others to participate under the guise of hazing.”
Police also charged one student, 16, with unlawful restraint, simple assault and hazing. Three students (two ages 16 and one 17) were charged with unlawful restraint and hazing. Police also charged four students (two 16 and two 17) with violating the hazing statute.
Chardo says Gettle indicated that all of the cases will be handled through the juvenile system. Three Middletown football players’ families have gotten lawyers from a Harrisburg law firm that specializes in sexual abuse cases following a hazing incident among the football team.
The charges filed involved assaults on six student-athletes with ages ranging from 14-17. Seven students were expelled from the school amid the investigation.
In August District Superintendent Dr. Chelton Hunter said leaders are taking the allegations seriously and have been working with Lower Swatara Township Police and the district attorney’s office, which are both investigating.
“This district understands that these images that were captured in the video are very concerning, to say the least. In addition, this situation is certainly not a reflection of the entire Middletown football team, nor does it represent the universal values that Middletown Area School District tries to instill in all student-athletes,” said Hunter.
Middletown Area School District announced a new three-phase anti-hazing initiative that includes education, prevention, and a cultural shift.
District Attorney Chardo noted that the Middletown Area School District was very cooperative through the investigation. “The school district went above and beyond to ensure that it cooperated completely with the police investigation. To date, the investigation has shown that none of the coaches or school administrators knew of the incidents until the day it was reported to the police. Additionally, the school district took immediate action to remove all the known perpetrators from the school to ensure that the victims were not further traumatized.”
The Middletown Area School District released the following statement after the charges were announced.
As the District Attorney announces the filing of formal charges against the students involved in the football hazing incident, the Middletown Area School District and School Board want to again express our disappointment and concern for the actions of these students. The District, from the start, has cooperated fully with law enforcement throughout their investigation and will continue to do so. As was previously announced at the School Board meeting on September 6th, the District has already contracted with outside experts who specialize in working with schools to address hazing and to help rebuild and foster positive, supportive sports programs, and learning environments for students. We are looking forward as we engage in the implementation of our districtwide plan that our administrative team and staff developed to address any concerns about culture. Ultimately, moving forward, we must work collaboratively as a community of parents, coaches, and educators to best serve and support our students. We are committed to doing our very best for the children of the Middletown Area School District.Dr. Chelton Hunter, Superintendent of Schools
Individuals with information related to those incidents are encouraged to contact the police at Dauphin County detectives at (717) 780-6200.