Four high school varsity players have been arrested and a faculty member suspended in a growing investigation of hazing that included sexual abuse at a southern California high school.
The investigation that began with complaints by members of La Puente High School’s boys soccer team has spread to other teams and police interviews have included students who played for the school’s teams as far back as 10 years ago, Sgt. Dan Scott of the Special Victims Bureau told ABC News, with the investigation focusing on the past three to four years.
A faculty member has been suspended with pay in connection with the allegations. “There is a teacher coach involved, and we don’t know the degree of involvement,” Superintendent Barbara Nakaoka said in a press conference.
An attorney for the victims says the faculty member encouraged the hazing, ABC affiliate KABC reports, but police say they haven’t found anything to indicate any adults were involved.
The initial allegations related to incidents that happened between March and August of this year, and were against varsity soccer players, KABC reports.
The subsequent investigation revealed the alleged hazing may be more widespread, and likely has gone on for several years. “We are keeping the investigation into the allegations as broad as possible, interviewing students from different sports and different years,” Scott said. “We are going as far back as we need to go back.”
Brian Claypool, the lawyer for three of the victims said the abuse involved a coach who allegedly lured younger players to a back room where varsity students attempted to sodomize them with foreign objects.
He said the hazing “has been going on for quite some time.” Claypool said one victim was treated at the hospital for his injuries, KABC reported. The Hacienda La Puente Unified School District Superintendents office issued a statement calling the allegations “deeply disturbing.”
Because the students involved are minors, police withheld specifics about the hazing, but Scott noted the Special Victims Bureau handles cases of both physical and sexual abuse. He also said there were multiple acts perpetrated against multiple children. The students who were arrested Friday have since be released.
A friend of one of the accused told KABC she was shocked by the allegations. “If they were part of it, I didn’t expect them to be a part of it,” Ashley Acosta told KABC. “They are really cool. You could go to them for anything if you needed help with anything.”
The school district isn’t saying what disciplinary action they are taking against the students, citing privacy concerns. Law enforcement is asking anyone with further information into the allegations to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office.