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7 Newfane High athletes face shoplifting charges

Several members of the Newfane High School varsity baseball team could be facing discipline in court and at school after being arrested Tuesday on misdemeanor shoplifting charges in South Carolina.

Newfane Central School Superintendent Christine Tibbits said the seven players will go before the district’s Athletic Disciplinary Council on Monday. The teammates – three 18-year-olds and four juveniles – were arrested near a Myrtle Beach shopping center Tuesday evening after allegedly being observed stealing several pairs of sunglasses and other items.

The Panthers baseball team was in South Carolina with their coach for the Mingo Bay baseball tournament, which attracts teams from Western New York and around the country.

Tibbits said that, although it was not a school-funded trip and the chaperones were the players’ parents, the event would be considered a school function.

“Anytime our kids are putting on our uniforms and playing as a team, they are representing the school,” she said.

The three 18-year-olds were identified as Brian P. Ratajczak of Lockport, Mitchell L. Valery of Burt and Reid J.J. Weber of Newfane. Weber was named to the second team of the Niagara Orleans Boys Basketball honor roll.

Tibbits said the baseball team has only about 13 players and called the arrests “a disappointment.”

“It’s like being a parent,” Tibbits said. “You feel like these are your kids.”

The athletic council includes the district’s athletic director, high school principal and assistant principal, and coaches from two other sports.

Once the council has interviewed each player and made a recommendation, Tibbits said, she and Newfane High School Principal Thomas B. Stack will determine what action the district will take regarding the students.