The fathers of 2 Tamaqua Area High School football players say their sons were sexually assaulted at a building known as the Football House by some of their teammates back in November 2021. And they also say officials within the school district conspired to brush the incident under the proverbial rug.
Both parents jointly filed a federal civil lawsuit against Tamaqua Area School District, 9 members of the school board, and several school officials, including the Superintendent, on behalf of their sons.
The April 11 filing is the first the public’s heard in months of the alleged hazing incident that happened at what’s known as the Football House on the school district property. That “hazing” as it was referred to allegedly happened on Nov. 4, 2021.
Since that incident became widely known, Tamaqua school officials have voted to expel 3 students from school while local police investigated. Earlier this week, criminal charges were filed against one of the players alleged to be one of the attackers in the hazing incident.
Tamaqua Football Parents File Federal Lawsuit Over Hazing Incident, School Cover-Up
The lawsuit spells out what allegedly happened that night in the Football House, adjacent to Tamaqua Area High School.
According to the lawsuit documents, on Nov. 4, the accusing Tamaqua football players attended football practice and the customary post-practice dinner at the high school cafeteria. When the dinner was over, members of the Tamaqua football coaching staff told freshman players, including 1 of the 2 student plaintiffs named in the lawsuit (by their initials in court filings due to their minor status), to carry Gatorade and other items to the Football House.
The player who carried the Gatorade is identified as AM.
AM believes that upperclassmen were waiting at the Football House for the freshman players.
AM carried the Gatorade into the house and went to his locker in the building’s lower level to gather his belongings and head home. During the course of the controversy’s outbreak last year, we learned that Tamaqua football players change for games and practice at this Football House. It’s where they stow equipment between football activities and their personal belongings during games and practices.
Upperclassmen have lockers on the upper level of the Football House.
Alleged Attack in Tamaqua’s Football House
As AM was gathering his belongings that night, he says the lights went out in the Football House. Then, he heard people running down the stairs. AM says he was shoved off the bench in front of his locker and pinned to the ground.
Apparently, the alleged attacking players had their phone flashlights on and the freshman could identify one of his attackers, the one holding him down, as TO.
TO attempted to turn AM over on his stomach but the younger player resisted as long as he could, he says. During the struggle, AM says he saw another player, identified in the lawsuit as ZM, approaching him with a banana. He says the ZM tried to force the banana into his anus. A third attacker, LK, was standing nearby with another banana, AM says.
AM says he was eventually able to fight off the first 2 attackers and turn onto his back. However, all 3 players then began punching him in the face, AM says.
At this time, lights in the Football House turned back on and the AM says most of the people there ran upstairs. ZM shoved one of the bananas in his face, the freshman adds.
AM left the Football House, got into his father’s car, and reported what had happened to him.
A Second Alleged Assault on the Same Night
That same night but a little later, another of the accusing players, identified as TK, reports that he didn’t keep his belongings in the Football House because he was aware of what could happen there, the lawsuit claims.
However, TK says older players on the team stole his bag and used it as a means to lure him to the Football House. He says he was unaware of what had allegedly happened prior and went to the building to get his bag.
He says something similar happened to him, too.
The lights went out in the building and several other Tamaqua football players rushed him. TK says he fell into the lockers and onto the bench in front of them. That’s when he noticed another player on top of him. It was TO, he says.
TO also tried to insert something into the accuser’s anus, the lawsuit states. However as he resisted, the lights turned on in the building. TK also reported the incident to his father.
AM and Brother Were Bullied, Lawsuit Claims
AM says in the lawsuit that while school officials were apparently sorting out the details in the accusations, he was subjected to persistent bullying and harassment. His older brother, NM, was also subjected to this treatment. In the lawsuit, NM also claims to have been victimized by a similar hazing incident.
In that one, attackers attacked NM with a broomstick.
After the incident in November, AM says he was continually bullied. And in one case, was nearly attacked again.
As a member of the wrestling team, on Jan. 19 of this year, AM says he was pinned down by a senior member of the team. The senior wrestler yelled to other teammates to “get a banana,” the lawsuit claims.
About a week later, AM told his father that he couldn’t mentally tolerate attending Tamaqua Area and withdrew from school on Jan. 27.
Claims Against School Officials
This federal civil lawsuit doesn’t pursue any damages from the attackers. Instead, it zeroes in on the school’s response to the accusations.
Both fathers say Tamaqua Area is guilty of violating their Title IX rights throughout the ordeal in the following ways, among others:
- Not offering supportive measures
- Not segregating the attackers from their victims
- Not informing the victims of their right to file a formal Title IX complaint
- Not offering protection from retaliatory actions
The parents say the school took little or no action after learning of the alleged assaults.
Formally, the lawsuit seeks damages on several counts, including:
- Deliberate indifference to reports of sexual assault or harassment
- Retaliation following a report of sexual assault
- Deliberate indifference to reports of retaliatory harassment
- Deliberate indifference to a victim’s right to unbiased treatment
- Equal protection
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial in this case.
STILL TO COME: More coverage later on details revealed in this lawsuit …
- Cover-up accusations against school officials
- A tradition of hazing at Tamaqua?