Ten Lewiston-Porter High School students involved in a hazing incident in which raw meat was thrown at new players on the girls varsity soccer team have been suspended following a district investigation, Superintendent R. Christopher Roser said Friday.
Administrators suspended the students after learning Wednesday of a Labor Day weekend party at a student's home in which members of the girls varsity soccer team and other students held an "initiation" of new soccer players.
The suspended students all had some responsibility for hazing incidents that included putting eggs and flour in the hair of players and throwing raw meat at the students.
"Our message is that there is zero tolerance for any type of behaviour that would demean another student," Roser said. "It is not what Lewiston-Porter is going to tolerate or is about."
No students were physically harmed or threatened with physical harm during the hazing, Roser said.
The 10 students included five varsity girls soccer players, two football players and three students who are not currently on athletic teams. All were suspended from school for three to five days, Roser said.
"I think the kids felt that this was just good, wholesome pranking, but if you don't stop it at this level, then when can you identify that it's gone too far?" Roser said. "So the message is, you don't do it at all. There isn't any time that you belittle a person or demean them."
Roser said the suspended students on athletic teams would not be allowed to practice or play with their teams while they are out of school but will be allowed to play when they return to school.
The targets of the hazing were three or four freshman or sophomore students who are new to the varsity soccer team, Roser said.
Most parents attending Lew-Port soccer games in Niagara Falls on Friday evening declined to talk about the incident, although the mother of one varsity player said she thought the punishment was unfair. She would not give her name.
"They're all really great kids and they would not break rules if they thought it was really wrong," the woman said. "They're all honor students, they're just really top-of-the-line students."
The superintendent said the players serving the longest suspensions would miss four games at the most.
The hazing incidents took place at a home during a Sunday night sleepover on Labor Day weekend, Roser said. The district didn't learn about the party until after a soccer game Wednesday night when a "third party" told a coach, he said.
Roser did not identify the home where the incident took place or the names of the suspended students.
He said parents were at the house during the party but were unaware of the hazing incidents. The district does not believe alcohol was involved at the party.
Lewiston Police Chief Christopher Salada said his department received "third-party, anonymous information" on Friday morning about what he described as a "possible hazing" incident involving Lewiston-Porter High School students.
Salada said he sent two officers to the high school to meet with the principal to get more information and has set up interviews with the victims and their parents. He said some of the victims were cooperative, but some were not.
"We need a clearer picture of what's going on, what occurred," Salada said.
He said the results of the police investigation would be turned over to the Niagara County district attorney's office to determine if any charges are warranted.
"It's very preliminary at this time," Salada said.