Criminal charges expected in Dexter hazing incident

Posted Dec. 07, 2012, at 8:02 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — Criminal charges against Dexter Regional High School football players involved in an alleged hazing incident three weeks ago are forthcoming, according to Dexter Police Chief Kevin Wintle.

“We are looking at bringing assault charges,” Wintle said Friday evening. “We’re looking to be summonsing [students] at some period next week.”

He said the charges would be Class D, a misdemeanor.

Meanwhile, SAD 46 Superintendent Kevin Jordan said Friday he has not yet made any recommendations for disciplinary actions against the two football coaches — head coach Kevin Armstrong and assistant coach Matthew Hubbell — who were supervising the overnight gathering at the high school on Nov. 16.

As a result of the overnight gathering, 12 players from the football team were suspended from school for allegedly hazing underclassmen on the team. The perpetrators and victims were all minors.

After the SAD 46 board of directors meeting on Wednesday night, one mother, who asked not to be identified, said her son had his pants pulled down while three players took turns hitting his backside with a polycarbonate bat.

“It’s not the yellow bat at Walmart,” she said.

“The boy that hit my child backed up several feet and made him pull his pants down and ran six or seven feet to get more on his hit,” she said.

The boy’s grandmother said he was left with bruises.

Four students were suspended from school for 10 days, two were suspended seven days and six were suspended for one day, Jordan said. The students are also barred from participating in competitive afterschool events for periods ranging from one week to one month, depending on involvement.

All of the students who were handed suspensions were back in school as of Thursday, said Jordan.

Wintle said he expects interviews in the case to be finished by next week. Nearly 20 people have been interviewed, he said.

“It’s still an active investigation and we almost have that wrapped up,” the police chief said Friday. “It’s taking quite a bit of time because so many people need to be interviewed.”

The interviews have been thorough, he said. Detective Sgt. Alan Grinnell is leading the investigation.

“We’ve had about 50 hours into this case,” said Wintle. “We want to make sure nothing’s left out.”

Jordan said five coaches on the football staff were originally on hand to supervise the overnight event last month.

“Three of the coaches were dismissed. They weren’t needed,” said Jordan. “Two coaches were left.”

Jordan said Armstrong and Hubbell were chaperoning the event when the hazing incidents took place.

Armstrong declined to comment on Friday afternoon and attempts to reach Hubbell were unsuccessful.

During the SAD 46 board of directors meeting on Wednesday night, Jordan said there were five reported incidents of hazing. The first took place at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, while the other four happened between 4:30 and 5:15 a.m. on Nov. 17. Three of the five reported hazing incidents were caught on the school’s video surveillance system.

At the meeting, which was attended by 15-20 people, several parents expressed their displeasure at what they perceived to be insufficient punishments toward the perpetrators.

“You’re slapping these kids on the hand,” said one mother who did not identify herself. “I am ripped. I don’t think it’s fair. They need more than 10 days.”

Jordan explained that the high school’s principal, Stephen Bell, has only so much authority when handing out suspensions.

“According to state law, all the principal has the authority to do is suspend for up to 10 days,” said Jordan. “Any further disciplinary action must be taken by the school board.”

“We did what we could do,” said Bell. “Anything else requires board action.”

Jordan said he didn’t believe any more suspensions would be forthcoming.

“It’s my estimation that suspensions from school have run their course. I don’t anticipate any more,” he said.

Bell said school administrators are confident they know all of what happened that night.

He said that “99.9 percent of the facts were known within the first hours of the investigation [from surveillance footage and testimony]. The kids were honest. There was no question about what happened.”

Two parents at Wednesday night’s meeting said they didn’t fault the coaching staff.

“There’s not one parent who holds the coaching staff responsible for this,” one woman said. “Why would he [Armstrong] even suspect that a few of these boys would go and do this?”

Bell said that only four of the 12 alleged perpetrators are participating in winter sports. Neither coach leads a winter sports team, he said.

The entire football team will take part in community service as punishment for the hazing, said Jordan. The details of which were not yet known on Friday.

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