Ryan Scott Ottney and Bob Strickley
PDT Staff Writers
Portsmouth City School District concluded its investigation on Friday into allegations of hazing on the high school football team. The school confirmed one incident of lewd, sexual hazing and another incident of a non-sexual nature.
Portsmouth Superintendent Scott Dutey and High School Principal Doug Poage said six student athletes have been disciplined.
Those students’ names and the natures of their discipline will not be released by the school, but Poage called the punishment “severe.” In addition to their academic punishments, those students will also face separate disciplinary action on the football team.
According to Poage, several upperclassmen were wrestling with an underclassman in the locker room of the field house at Portsmouth Coliseum. The underclassman managed to get away and the older students began wrestling with another underclass student. The first student returned to help the second and was grabbed again by an older student, who began wrestling around again. Eventually another player saw the action and yelled out for them to stop, then called the coaches into the locker room.
There were five upperclassmen aggressors and two underclassmen victims in the incident that occurred Tuesday, Oct. 2. The incident prompted an immediate investigation.
“Tuesday, around 3:30, we got a call from Curt (Clifford, football coach) and he said there had been an incident in the locker room and it involved several (upperclassmen) and underclass-players,” Poage said. “Curt told me that and said he was administering football discipline, but he wanted to make me aware and I can deal with them however I wanted.”
Wednesday morning Poage met individually with the students involved in Tuesday’s incident and corroborated their stories of the alleged hazing.
During the school district’s investigation of this incident, it became known that another more serious incident happened on Monday, Oct. 1. Specific details of this incident are not being released by the school, other than that it occurred in the Portsmouth Coliseum field house after practice and one upperclassman targeted one underclassman. Poage confirmed this incident was an act of “lewd, sexual” hazing.
In all, six upperclassmen have been disciplined for their involvement in these incidents. Dutey said no coaches or administrators will be disciplined.
“They followed protocol. As soon as Curt found out, he immediately contacted Doug, which he’s required to do. Doug as the administrator dealt with it the next morning. I feel very comfortable, and I’ve felt like that since I’ve been here. I think our coaches and our teachers and our staff deal with things on a discipline issue very quickly,” Dutey said.
He said student safety is extremely important to the district.
“We already addressed it, but when things like this happen it tells you we’re not doing enough. We need to do more to reinforce it and continue to be diligent. Student safety is our number one issue, and when that’s breached it’s on us to address it and it’s on us to correct it,” Dutey said.
The superintendent also said there will be changes regarding access to certain areas of the football locker room.
Poage said the parents were all notified immediately and their options for recourse were explained by the district. He said the school cannot comment on any further action that may be taken or considered by the parents of the students involved. At this time he knows of none.
Dutey said their investigation will continue if any further claims come to their attention.
“As new information becomes available and folks bring us new information we will handle it just as we did with this initial incident,” Dutey said. “We will be proactive.”
Dutey and Poage said the school’s resource officer has been involved in working with the students, but said action from the Ohio High School Athletic Association or the Ohio Department of Education is not necessary or required.
Tim Stried, Director of Information Services for the OHSAA, said the organization only deals with ejections from contests or bylaw violations and would only be involved if school administrators reached out for advice.
“For the most part, these are disciplinary actions that the school handles for themselves,” Stried said.
Clifford could not be reached for comment by press time.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or email@example.com.
Bob Strickley can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org.