Centennial High School suspended 14 boys varsity soccer players for their involvement in a hazing incident during which two members of the school's junior varsity team were injured, according to a statement released yesterday by school principal Lynda Mitic.
On Aug. 31, according to the statement first obtained by the Baltimore Sun, most of the 12 freshmen on the junior varsity team were subjected to a hazing ritual called "butts up," in which the freshmen were forced to line up against the back wall of the Howard County school, bend over and grab their ankles while varsity players "punted soccer balls at them from close range."
One player suffered a concussion after being hit in the face with a ball; another player received a hand injury. The statement said both players have returned to school and are practicing with the team. Mitic's statement said that the hazing incident occurred between 2:45 p.m. and 3 p.m. before practice, without coaches present. Players were warned at the start of the season by Coach Jim Zehe and junior varsity coach Bruce Smith that such behavior wouldn't be tolerated. The coaches were not reprimanded. Several parents have protested the five-day academic and two-game suspensions handed out to the varsity players as too stiff.
"These boys need to be disciplined for what they did," said Emily Parkhurst, whose son was among the players suspended. "The fact that two kids got injured was completely unintentional."
The statement said the varsity players were suspended for Centennial's 1-0 overtime loss to Patapsco Friday and also will not be available for the J.M. Bennett tournament in Salisbury, Md., on Saturday.
The statement also said this is not the first time Centennial's varsity soccer players have initiated acts of "intimidation and threats" against freshmen on the junior varsity team. In investigating the case, school administrators found that freshmen players had been dragged across a muddy field, had soccer balls punted at them on other occasions and had been threatened to be thrown into a pond located behind the school.