Pennsylvania district investigates hazing, cancels high school's football season

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A Pennsylvania school district has announced it's canceling its high school's football season after obtaining a video that allegedly showed hazing among team members.

The Middletown Area School District earlier this month had announced an investigation into what it called a "disturbing and upsetting" Aug. 11 cellphone video showing hazing. The head football coach resigned within days of the video surfacing and Lower Swatara Township police were contacted, officials said.

Superintendent Chelton Hunter said Wednesday in a letter to parents that additional video surfaced and indicated "this hazing was much more widespread, and involved many more students" than was previously known.

"In light of this, we have made the decision to cancel the 2022 football season," Hunter said, adding that he knew the decision would affect many students and families and "will be met with many different opinions and emotions."

Team members had been in the high school turf room used for heat acclimation practice sessions when cellphone video showed "a group of students restraining two of their teammates and using a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment" to poke their buttock areas, the superintendent said Monday.

The players remained fully clothed and no penetration appeared to have occurred, he said, calling the video difficult to watch and the acts "completely unacceptable, offensive, and highly inappropriate."

"The kind of hazing that occurred in our facilities with this team is reprehensible. It simply cannot and will not be tolerated," Hunter said Wednesday. "We know we must work to address the culture of this team, educate our student body about hazing, and put programs in place to help us ensure that this kind of atmosphere is never allowed to exist in our school facilities."

Hunter said the second video also was shared with law enforcement and the district was continuing its own investigation. He vowed discipline for any students who participated and for any staff members "found to have ignored this kind of hazing."

School officials would work to find other opportunities in the fall for cheerleaders and the marching band, and alternative plans would be made for homecoming, "which is typically scheduled around a football game," he said.