The Verrado High School baseball team advanced to the state championship last season, but months before the game, unknown to the public, the athletes were embroiled in a scandal that “disrupted” school function, according to the superintendent.
According to a Buckeye Police report obtained by the West Valley View, the Verrado boys baseball and girls softball teams were headed home on a school bus from Maricopa High School April 5 when the young women allegedly witnessed a boy being sexually assaulted by his teammates.
The victim refused to press charges, but the students were reprimanded by the school, according to Agua Fria School District Superintendent Dennis Runyan.
“The incident was a disruption to school function and inappropriate behavior,” Runyan said via email.
“All individual students involved received disciplinary action. Because of privacy rights the students’ individual discipline is not disclosed as a student record under FERPA. The incident was also reported to the SRO (school resource officer) with a follow-up investigation.”
He said the “normal discipline for this type of disruption” is a three- to nine-day suspension, possible missed games or potential removal from a team if it involves athletes.
Runyan said staff suggested further training for the coaches.
“Through our investigation and the police investigation of the incident, I do believe this incident has been processed correctly,” Runyan said. “There were no additional charges that we are aware of.”
Buckeye detective Tamela Skaggs, who serves as the department’s public information officer, said the “involved victims and their parents did not wish to press charges, therefore no criminal charges were filed.”
According to the report, a girl’s mother called police after her daughter’s teammates said the boys were performing sex acts on each other and smoking marijuana.
The daughter saw a “baseball player get pinned down in the back of the bus and forced to perform a sexual act” on his teammate, according to police. The report said other players held their hands over the boy’s mouth. The girl didn’t tell the coaches or bus driver for fear of retaliation.
Upon arriving at Verrado, the police report said the athletic director said the girl was “a liar” and he would check the school bus’ three cameras the following day.
The report goes on to say the video “showed three separate incidents, which all had the same type of behavior between the boys varsity baseball team.
“All three incidents showed at least three students holding another student down and either inappropriately touching each other and/or not allowing the student back up, while others watched and laughed.”
According to the report, Skaggs viewed the video and she said she saw four incidents, each with different “possible victims.”
The first incident showed a boy being pulled down in his seat and appeared to be punched by a fellow student. Another student assisted by grabbing and holding his mouth shut. A third held him down.
The detective said it appeared to show a boy struggling to get free, while others attempted to pull his pants down.
The second possible victim was held down in his seat, with one student holding his hand over his mouth. Others attempted to pull his pants down.
In the third, a student covered the camera with his/her hand for several minutes. “When the hand is taken from the camera, an unidentified student is seen getting up off the floor from the middle aisle and sitting back in a seat.”
The report goes on to say a female student was observed covering her mouth in shock from what she saw and smiling.
The fourth incident again shows a student being held down in his seat on the bus and someone trying to pull down his pants.
“The video shows (redacted name) being let go by the others involved and seen buttoning and fastening his belt,” Skaggs wrote. “In the video, you do not see any genitals or private areas.”
Skaggs spoke with the students, witnesses and parents, many of whom refused to cooperate. One victim chalked it up to “roughhousing” and “tickling” because “that’s what guys do.”
When asked about his teammates covering his mouth, the student, an alleged victim, said, “if a limit was crossed, they would have stopped,” comparing it to holding someone underwater in a pool. He didn’t feel sexually harassed. He said to ask the other students if they were trying to pull down his pants.
Another victim explained he was pulling up his pants and buckling his belt because “when you squirm around, your pants fall off.”