Outlines Staff Response to Alleged Hazing IncidentBy Shari Phiel
Findings from the Thompson School District’s internal investigation into how Berthoud High School staff handled a series of alleged hazing incidents have now been made available. The investigation, which was conducted upon request from outgoing BHS Principal Leonard Sherman, was conducted by Gene Alvine, the school district’s athletics and activities director.
The investigation stemmed from a series of reported cases of hazing allegedly committed by members of the BHS wrestling team in November and December 2008. BHS senior Brandyn Wahlert was suspended for 10 days while another student, Saul Anderson, was suspended for five days. Wahlert has since been charged with four counts of third-degree assault is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on April 21. Anderson was not charged and has since moved to another school after his family relocated to Erie.
According to documents released by the school district, Alvine began his investigation on Feb. 11 by asking BHS Athletic Director Rusty Mathena, Principal Sherman, head wrestling coach Scott Pickert and assistant wrestling coach Mike Shearer for written responses to a series of questions pertaining to the alleged incidents. Alvine also fielded the same questions to Loveland High School Principal Fred Dreier who served as assistant principal and athletic director at BHS from 2004-2007.
Alvine asked staff members if they were any “written records of a student or students being disciplined” for similar offenses, if there were any written documents warning students of the “consequences of such behaviors,” if staff had issued any verbal warnings to team members or if any written correspondence existed that “shows any wrestler or wrestlers being disciplined for any form of hazing.”
In their responses, both Sherman and Dreier stated they were not aware of any previous incidents involving the types of hazing alleged to have occurred nor were they aware of any verbal or written warning issued by coaching staff.
The BHS coaching staff questioned also stated they were not aware of any previous incidents occurring at the high school, nor were they aware of any previous written or verbal warnings being issued. Coach Mathena added that wrestlers “were warned that hazing was not condoned” earlier in the season.
In addition, Shearer noted information related to hazing is available under “Student Athlete Expectations” on the BHS wrestling Web site at www.BHSWrestling.wikispace.com.
According to the site, “Wrestlers will not engage in any activity that could be considered ‘hazing.’ Hazing is considered assault, and punishable under the law. (Engaging in hazing will result in the issuance of a referral, which will cost the wrestler the next match, and an appropriate response from the administration).”
After meeting with many of those involved in the investigation, and after reviewing the responses provided by all parties, including information from School Resource Officer Vasquez, Alvine reported that, based on situations and the amount of time remaining in the season, the BHS wrestlers were “punished in an appropriate manner.”
Alvine has also tasked Coach Mathena with focusing on the issue of hazing in the 2009-2010 school year. He notes their stated goal is to “forever end any initiation or hazing of younger wrestlers in the program.”