Small Town Coverup?
Publisher's edit, 6:00 p.m., 11/29/06. It has come to my attention that the charges filed against the student came from the hazing incidents reported by the younger students. While I apologize for the error and have made some minor changes to the article, it in no way changes the the overall complaints that were forwarded to me by some residents of this small South Dakota town.
Generally speaking, whenever I compose one of my patented tirades I keep nothing under wraps. I just speak my mind and take the fallout in the form of emails and phone calls.
Today, however, I’m going to be very careful in how I present my story. Part of this is due to the ages of the people involved, but it’s mainly because of the explosive nature of allegations that, according to some parents, are being swept under the rug. Because of these reasons, I’m not only withholding the names of anybody involved in the story but I’m also refraining from naming the town where these incidents were alleged to have occurred.
The story first became known this past summer when a state champion high school wrestler was arrested for almost two dozen sexual assaults against at least six of his classmates. Yet according to some residents of the small town located less than a half hour from Sioux Falls, the story doesn’t end there. A few weeks ago, a letter from one of the classmates' parents was sent to at least one local media outlet. This letter alleges that “at least three other varsity wrestlers are involved in tormenting, harassing and hazing the younger members of the wrestling team. These varsity wrestlers actually held down the six young victims while the rapes occurred.”
Besides the sexual assaults, these silly jocks also supposedly committed offensive acts to these six young men. They “harassed and hazed the younger wrestlers over a long period of time. (They) urinated in the younger boys’ Gatorade, defecated in their rooms at wrestling camp, along with a lot of other disgusting activities”. These activities were kept quiet by the younger wrestlers for quite some time until the wrestling camp incidents that resulted in some of these students confiding in their parents. The school’s superintendent reportedly told the parents that it’s “not the school’s problem”.
Supposedly, the official reason these other athletes were not charged with their roles in the alleged sexual assaults was because they agreed to testify. But according to this letter, a member of the faculty actually told one of the victim’s fathers that “the school is not going to take any action until after the football season, because if these three boys are kicked off the football team, (the school) wouldn’t have a change at winning a football game”. (The school in question ultimately won quite a few football games, and recently was a victor in the state championship game.)
But was there more to the decision to not charge these additional students? The letter alleges that family connections may have had a hand in helping these kids out. “One of them is the son of a school board member”, says the writer. “One of them is the son of the assistant football coach. One of them is the nephew of a school board member”. (No word on if the school board member named twice is the same person.) Interestingly, one of the harassers is also supposedly related to a Sioux Falls news anchor.
In some respects, it’s shocking to me that this story isn’t making the front page of the local paper (besides the indictment of the one athlete), or has yet to make any appearance on the local television news. At the same time, though, I’m not shocked at all. This year we’ve seen plenty of similar stories swept under the rug. Allegations against Bob Sahr were enough to cause him to not seek re-election, but we hear nothing but unsubstantiated whispers of sexual harassment and a motel room. Political opponents of Dan Sutton used similar allegations to unsuccessfully attempt to force him to pull out of an election just two weeks before people cast their ballots.
Those two cases are not as troublesome as the story of this small town and their decision to chase sports titles rather than punish the deplorable actions of a handful of wannabe big fish in an extremely small pond. I like sports as much as the next person, but is a banner that hangs in the gym worth the innocence of at least six young boys? I think not.