Blog : Maryland

Amid Alleged Broomstick Hazing Ritual Scandal, Damascus High Principal Resigns, JV Football Coach & Athletic Director Placed on Leave

When a JV high school football team,  thought to be like a family, allegedly commits the tradition of “broomstick” hazing to new teammates, the story is going to draw ongoing negative media attention…

Yesterday, the principal of Damascus High School in Maryland announced her resignation as a result of the alleged October 2018 “broomstick” hazing and rape of junior varsity football team members at the school.

This announcement follows news that the Damascus High’s JV football coach, Vincent Colbert, who was reported as the first school official to know about the attack (and that the school system waited hours to alert police) was placed on leave last month as part of the ongoing investigation…and later last night, a letter to coaches announced that the athletic director was also put on leave.

This heartbreaking news of hazing and sexual assault in high school is reminiscent of the suit School Violence Law & The Fierberg National Law Group filed on behalf of the Ooltewah High School rape victim who was sodomized with a pool-cue by teammates.

Read our first Blog article regarding the Damascus alleged hazing here.

Follow the ongoing coverage at The Washington Post, WTOP  and CBS NEWS.

 

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Broomstick Hazing Ritual – Damascus, Md. High School JV Football Team Continues “Tradition”

Image result for american football imagesOne of the alleged victims told police that he had heard about the tradition of “brooming” when he was in middle school but thought it was a myth. When he pleaded for his attackers to stop, they told him it was tradition, according to the report.

Five boys on a Damascus Md. JV high school football team are facing various rape charges after allegedly using a broomstick to assault teammates as part of a “hazing” ritual.

The Washington Post obtained police reports describing the alleged attacks of four members of the Damascus High School junior varsity football team on Halloween.

“He thought the football team was supposed to be a family and look out for each other … and did not think they could do something that horrible,” the police report states.

The alleged attackers turned off the lights in the locker room before pinning down their victims, according to the report. Two of the victims escaped after being pinned down while a 14- and 15-year old were allegedly assaulted with a broomstick.

From The Washington Post:

Another victim told investigators that he was in the locker room, saw the first boy attacked and then heard the attackers say they were coming after him. They held him facedown over a bench and assaulted him with a broomstick for about 10 seconds, according to the incident report.

Three 15-year-olds have been charged with two counts of second-degree rape and two counts of attempted second-degree rape. Another boy stands charged with three counts of second-degree rape and another one count of second-degree rape, according to The Post.

All five are charged as juveniles.

Montgomery school officials told the Post that they were not aware of the systematic “hazing” alleged in the police report.

Complete story reported by Jason Owens at Yahoo Sports.

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High School Shooting in Maryland

Two Students Critically Injured, Gunman Dead, During a High School Shooting in Maryland

Less than a week since the National School Walkout, yet another group of student lives are affected by a school shooting. Two survivors of the shooting are in critical condition, and the gunman is dead. The Washington Post Reports:

A student opened fire at Great Mills High School in Southern Maryland Tuesday morning, critically injuring a female student before he was confronted by a school resource officer, according to the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office.

The officer and gunman both fired nearly simultaneously in a school hallway, authorities said. They said the gunman, identified as 17-year-old Austin Wyatt Rollins, was mortally wounded, but it was not clear whether he was shot by the officer or hit by his own round at the school 70 miles south of Washington, D.C. A third student was shot in the incident but it not immediately clear by whom.

Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron said at an afternoon press conference the shooter and two students, ages 16 and 14, were rushed to the hospital. The school resource officer, St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Deputy Blaine Gaskill, was not injured, the sheriff said.

Rollins was pronounced dead at 10:41 a.m. Cameron said.

A prior relationship existed between Rollins and the female student shot and authorities are exploring whether it played a role in the shooting.

 

Isaiah Quarles, a 10th-grader, was walking to his first period class Tuesday morning. He didn’t hear a gunshot but saw a girl falling to the ground. He thought she had fainted but then there were screams and shouts and someone yelled about a gun.

“Everyone started running and I started running, too,” Quarles said. “I was scared.”

The 16-year-old ran to his class. His teacher remained calm, he said, and soon there was an announcement on the public address system. “Our principal said there was a lockdown but no one was going to be harmed,” Quarles said.

Tyriq Wheeler, 17, was headed to his English class when he heard a loud bang. He hustled to class after he heard someone was shot.

A lockdown was announced once he made it to class. The class lowered the blinds and locked the door. Students pulled out their phones, contacting their parents and checking the news.

Wheeler remembered thinking, “Is this really happening?”

Last week, Wheeler walked out with other Great Mills students to protest gun violence because “kids shouldn’t be taken from the world so early.”

On Tuesday, as he was picked up from a nearby high school, he said, “I’m grateful I’m still alive. I’m grateful that I can see my mother and sister and, to be honest, I just want to get home.”

 

Ronda Neville who lives in Sebastian, Fla., has a niece who is in the 11th grade at Great Mills, and said in a phone interview that she was waiting to hear from her niece who is in the 11th grade at Great Mills. She hasn’t heard from her or the girl’s father, who is her brother-in-law.

“I’m sick over this,” she said. Her two sons graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a former student of the school last month shot and killed 14 classmates and three staff members.

Neville said one of her sons texted her just after 9 a.m. after he heard about the Maryland school shooting. He had gone to Great Mills at one point, she said.

He wrote, “Oh my god. There’s a shooting [at Great Mills],” Neville said she sent a text message to her brother-in-law, the teen’s father.

Just before 10 a.m., Neville said she got a text from the girl’s father saying her niece had stayed home from school. He didn’t say why, but said she was safe.

Neville, who said she attended funerals for friends, a coach and teachers who were killed in Parkland, was “still sick to my stomach.”

Read the full article here.

The entire staff at The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law extend sincere sympathy to the students and families affected by this tragedy. Our lawyers negotiated the historic settlements for the wrongful deaths and injured survivors of the Virginia Tech Massacre, which valued in excess of $11 Million.  The settlements established a foundation in their honor that continues to advocate for safe schools and gun control, which we continue to represent.

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Estate of Deceased College Student v. Phi Sigma Kappa, et al.

Represented the family of college student who died following an evening of initiation at a “Bid Night” sponsored by a chapter of a national fraternity.  Discovery in the case uncovered internal documents of the fraternity demonstrating that the fraternity’s risk-management programs were not unilaterally working to prevent injuries or death from the misuse of alcohol during fraternity events, and that senior members of the fraternity had long-ago recommended that the fraternity go “dry” to prevent additional incidents of injury or death.  Those recommendations were not adopted by the national fraternity.  The national fraternity’s motion to dismiss the claims against it were denied.  Subsequently, the family accepted a settlement from the fraternity and numerous of its members that included economic and non-economic terms.  USA TODAY covered the case, and the article can be viewed here.

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Client v. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Represented college student against the fraternity in a case alleging that the defendant violently hazed him by, among other things, beating him, whipping him, and holding a heat lamp to his face to darken his skin because he was not deemed “black enough” to gain admission to the fraternity.  After several days of trial, the jury entered a verdict of $375,000, compensating Client for his injuries and awarding him punitive damages against the fraternity. This case was featured in The Prince George’s Journal in a political cartoon that can be viewed here.  The Washington Post also covered the case, and the article can be viewed here.

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Mrs. “B” v. John Doe

Represented Mrs. “B” as trial counsel after she was secretly videotaped while using a private bathroom in the defendant’s condominium where Mrs. “B” and her husband were vacationing.  The defendant obtained (and later watched) approximately 12 minutes of videotape of Mrs. “B” as she engaged in acts of personal hygiene.  Suit was filed alleging a number of civil claims, including a claim under Maryland Criminal Law Code § 3-902, which prohibits videotape surveillance of others with a prurient interest and creates a civil cause of action for victims.  Despite numerous mediations and attempts to settle the matter, the defendant refused to offer a fair settlement.  Defendant justified his position, in substantial part, on the grounds that the case was pending in a conservative, small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and that no jury in that jurisdiction would award (or ever had awarded) significant damages for this type of misconduct.  Mrs. “B” was advised to reject defendant’s settlement offer and proceed to trial.  The case went to trial in January 2005 and lasted less than two days.  The jury found in favor of Mrs. “B” on all counts of her complaint, awarding her $101,250 in compensatory and $200,000 in punitive damages, for a total verdict of $301,250.  The verdicts were paid within thirty days.  View Lawyers USA article here.

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In re Ms. Doe

Ms. Doe was a freshman when she went to a dorm room with an acquaintance to socialize.  Ms. Doe became extremely intoxicated and incapacitated, and her companion had sexual intercourse with her.  The following day, Ms. Doe reported the college rape to local police and an investigation began.  The students lived in the same dormitory building, and Ms. Doe asked the University to remove her alleged attacker from the dormitory since she regularly encountered him after the incident while going to and from her room and classes.  The University did not remove the student, claiming that it would wait until the outcome of the criminal investigation or that it would assist her in moving.  We intervened on behalf of the student, initiated student disciplinary proceedings, and demanded that the alleged attacker be removed from our client’s dormitory based upon Title IX.  Immediately thereafter, the University arranged to have the student’s housing switched to another location on campus.  A settlement of the disciplinary proceedings resulted in numerous changes in housing, class schedules, and other circumstances designed to allow Ms. Doe to continue attending the university without any contact with or by her alleged attacker, regardless of whether the state ever criminally prosecutes him for his actions

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Ms. Jane Doe v. Former Boyfriend

Represented Jane Doe in civil proceedings against her former boyfriend who brutally raped and tortured her after learning that she had been in a relationship with another man.  Defendant was criminally prosecuted and sentenced to jail for his actions.  Civil claims were brought against the defendant in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland while he remained incarcerated.  Defendant filed frivolous counterclaims against Ms. Doe alleging that she had inflicted extreme emotional distress on him by engaging in sexual relations with another without telling him.  A substantial six-figure settlement was reached on behalf of Ms. Doe, which also protected her from any future contact with defendant upon his release from jail.

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