Fired Maine West soccer coach: ‘I have done nothing wrong’

The alleged victim's mother — who declined to give her identity and appeared at the news conference wearing a baseball hat and large sunglasses — said she notified a school official shortly after she learned of the incident and requested that her son be transferred to a different school. Photo: (Chicago Tribune)

The alleged victim’s mother — who declined to give her identity and appeared at the news conference wearing a baseball hat and large sunglasses — said she notified a school official shortly after she learned of the incident and requested that her son be transferred to a different school. Photo: (Chicago Tribune)

The Maine Township High School District 207 school board approved an agreement Monday night with Michael Divincenzo to “conclude the dismissal proceeding and end Mr. Divincenzo’s employment by the school district,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Michael Divincenzo said his decision to drop the challenge to his firing should not be construed as an admission of guilt, according to Park Ridge Patch.

“I know that I have done nothing wrong and intend to vigorously contest the allegations in the pending civil case,” Divincenzo stated. “This has been a difficult decision that was made in the best interests of my family.”

Senior members of the Maine West varsity boys soccer team are accused of assaulting and sodomizing underclassmen as part of team-initiation rituals. Six Maine West varsity boys soccer players initially were charged with misdemeanor battery on allegations they hazed younger teammates in separate attacks in September and during a soccer camp last summer.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office is reviewing the charges and investigating accusations of hazing at Maine West, going back to 2007.

By dropping his hearing request with the state board of education, the district stands to save “the substantial cost of dismissal proceedings and, more importantly, will avoid either party having to call students to testify for or against Mr. Divincenzo in those very difficult and lengthy proceedings,” School Board President Sean Sullivan said in a statement read at the end of Monday night’s board meeting, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Cook County State’s Attorney‘s office said Monday that its investigation of those hazing allegations is still pending.

Eldon Burk, 76, a retired educator from Des Plaines who taught for 32 years in District 207, told the Daily Herald hazing is a nationwide problem that is finally getting attention with recent high-profile cases at Maine West and other schools across the country.

“Every school person in the United States is looking at how do we keep this from happening to us,” he said. “It’s going to make a major change in how people look at hazing, how they are going to guard against it, how they are going to be more aware of it, and more active [in] reporting it, and doing something about it. If something good can come out of something really bad, maybe that’s what we have.”

Four current and former students are suing the school district, Maine West, the school’s principal, Audrey Haugan, and fired coaches Divincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez, claiming the practice of hazing has been going on in the school’s soccer and baseball programs since 2007.

“What once was an adversarial proceeding between Maine West and coach [Divincenzo] has now evolved into a comfortable relationship where a back deal was made to continue benefits for the coach who allowed victims to be sexually assaulted and for him to cooperate in the pending lawsuit — meaning that the district and the coach can now cooperate in further covering up and denying the continued allegations,” the victims’ attorney, Antonio Romanucci, said in a written statement.

Should the coaches be held responsible for the acts of hazing that were done by the students? Shouldn’t the students and the student’s parents be responsible? Where are the parents who raised their children thinking hazing other people is all right?

Although there should be some fault on the coaches whose athletes did these shameful acts of hazing under their supervision and guidance, I personally feel the student’s parents who raised these young men thinking these acts are all right should be at more fault.

It is sad and disgraceful to see these six young men being charged for these horrid acts of hazing and sodomizing younger classmen. If anything, this case at Maine West High School should open the eyes of parents, athletes and coaches on how to handle and discuss the issue of hazing and heinous rituals that occur in not only sports, but in many cultural settings.

Romanucci, whose clients claim they were victims of hazing at the school, said the deal means continued benefits for a coach “who allowed victims to be sexually assaulted,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

He accused the school district of cutting a deal “to save itself” while it and Maine West’s principal “stood by letting young boys become victims of sexual assault and doing nothing about it.”

“This whole deal stinks,” Romanucci said.

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