MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — Middletown School District has removed the students involved in the hazing incident from mid-August from the football team and considered canceling the football season entirely. Releasing new details on Monday, the school describes an incident involving Middletown football players happening during a practice.

“Middletown Area School District will not tolerate hazing, is committed to investigating all reported incidents of hazing, and is actively engaged in pursuing discipline for the students responsible for violating our policies in this case,” the school district said in its statement.

Following the school’s investigation, officials concluded the hazing incident occurred on August 11 on school property, during a practice. The school says it was notified the following day on August 12 and began its investigation and contacted the Lower Swatara Township Police Department.

Cell phone video of the incident was widely distributed of the hazing, showing “a group of students restraining two of their teammates and using a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment to poke the buttock areas of the students who were on the ground,” according to the statement. “The video shows players fully clothed.”

In a statement, the school describes the hazing incident as a “completely unacceptable, offensive, and highly inappropriate act.”

The school says the incident happened inside the high school turf room for heat acclimation practice sessions. The students involved in the incident were identified by the school on August 12.

“As soon as the players involved in the hazing were identified on August 12, they were removed from the football team pending the outcome of the investigation and the completion of the student discipline process,” the school district said in its statement. “Behavior such as that seen on the video simply will not be tolerated.”

This comes as Middletown head football coach Scott Acri resigned from his position on Monday, August 15. The school named Rob Brodish as interim football coach for the upcoming season, but did consider whether to continue with the football season at all.

“The District considered multiple factors in deciding whether to continue with the football season, including the potential impact canceling the season would have on football players not involved in this incident as well as students involved in marching band and cheerleading,” Middletown School District said in its statement.

Full statement

Dear Parent/Guardian:

I’m writing to provide information and updates about the Middletown Area School District’s investigation into a hazing incident with our football team which occurred on August 11, 2022. This incident is disturbing and upsetting, and we understand both the desire for more information and a call for action. At the same time, as we conduct an investigation, the District must follow state and federal laws, District policy, and maintain confidentiality and student privacy.

The hazing incident took place when members of the high school football team were in the high school turf room for heat acclimation practice sessions. Cell phone video, taken by players, shows a group of students restraining two of their teammates and using a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment to poke the buttock areas of the students who were on the ground. The video shows players fully clothed. It did not appear that any student’s body was physically penetrated. The video is difficult to watch as this is a completely unacceptable, offensive, and highly inappropriate act.

On August 12, the District received reports of a possible hazing incident during the football team’s practice the previous day. The High School Administration immediately opened an investigation, met with students, reviewed cell phone video of the incident, and contacted the Lower Swatara Township Police Department.

As soon as the players involved in the hazing were identified on August 12, they were removed from the football team pending the outcome of the investigation and the completion of the student discipline process. Behavior such as that seen on the video simply will not be tolerated.

On Monday, August 15, 2022, the head football coach offered his resignation. An interim football coach will lead the team through the rest of the season. The District considered multiple factors in deciding whether to continue with the football season, including the potential impact canceling the season would have on football players not involved in this incident as well as students involved in marching band and cheerleading.

To be clear, Middletown Area School District will not tolerate hazing, is committed to investigating all reported incidents of hazing, and is actively engaged in pursuing discipline for the students responsible for violating our policies in this case. The District is cooperating with law enforcement investigators and will continue doing so until the investigation is completed. We are addressing this matter with the utmost sense of urgency to ensure that our school environment is free from behaviors that are meant to demean, humiliate or harm other students. Once all investigations are concluded, the District will be working to develop additional protocols and supports to promote a positive school climate and culture for all students.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work through this investigation. We understand the desire for information but are doing our best to work diligently and thoroughly through a legal process. We know this incident is of serious concern to our entire school community and will do all we can to move forward in a positive manner.

Dr. Chelton Hunter
Superintendent of Schools
Middletown Area School District

Middletown football will begin its season on Friday, August 26 against Lower Dauphin.