Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

6 Arrested in Napa High School Football Freshman Hazing Incidents

Between 2015 and 2016, at a high school in Napa, California, multiple hazing incidents are alleged to have occurred involving the football team. The allegations span both this, and last year's school year. As a result, 17 of the school's football players were investigated in relation to the allegations. Of those investigated, 6 were arrested and are now being charged with various crimes related to the hazing.

Specific information about juvenile cases is not usually released. Notably, the district attorney refused to charge the coach. The DA explained that due to the lack of evidence against the coach, no charges could ethically be filed. More charges could be filed as the cases unfold.

Hazing Is Criminal

Hazing is a taboo practice, often seen in athletics, and private membership clubs (like fraternities), where new members are forced to undergo a range of un-pleasantries from childish bullying to sexual assault or worse. Many states have laws specifically directed at criminalizing hazing. Additionally, schools, coaches, and other faculty and staff, can often be held liable criminally and civilly if they failed to report witnessing the signs of hazing or other abuse.

In the Napa case, one student who claims to have been pulled into the wrong place at the wrong time explained that older players groped and poked freshman players, while clothed. In one incident, a freshman player was held down while other players assaulted him. The description of what went on certainly seems to fit assault, battery, and even sexual assault, charges. In the student's description, he explained that a janitor saw what happened, gathered supplies, then left.

Mandatory Reporters

Under the laws of every state, certain professionals are considered mandatory reporters. This means that if a person in one of the professions suspects a child is being abused, they are required to speak up and report it to authorities. Most frequently, the following professions will be legally required to report abuse:

  • Teachers
  • School staff and administrators (including coaches)
  • Doctors
  • Therapists

Although these laws were originally intended to combat abuse at home, in recent years, they have been held to apply to school and athletic hazing incidents as well.

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