Jerry Davich: Hebron parents allege sexual harassment at high school
JERRY DAVICH email@example.com November 19, 2011 10:34PM
Sign outside Hebron High School in Hebron Friday Nov. 18, 2011. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 21, 2011 8:08AM
Kim and Dale Nicks insist that their 17-year-old son, Andrew, is a victim of sexual misconduct from other male students at Hebron High School.
They also claim that he is not the only victim of such harassment, involving naked horseplay that borders on bullying and possibly criminal mischief. Worse yet, school officials were aware of these allegations yet they did nothing about it, the Nicks claim.
“My son has been blackballed from playing on the basketball team this year because he doesn’t go along with the sexual misconduct,” said Kim Nicks, who met in person with the school principal, Mark Lutze, on Nov. 11.
With such sensitive allegations in the news these days involving Penn State’s eye-opening child sex abuse scandal, and the school’s shameful cover-up, the Nicks are determined not to let such a thing happen at HHS.
Not to mention the more recent case of bullying involving a Lake Central High School student whose family has since filed a lawsuit against school officials, claiming they turned a blind eye to the repeated harassment.
In an email to Boone Township School Board members, Dale Nicks wrote, “It is imperative that this investigation be all inclusive, so as to rid our schools of this terrible behavior and to protect our children both now and in the future.”
Kim told me, “Hebron school officials claim they know nothing of this and that I’m making it all up. Who could make up something so sick? And why?”
She refers to various forms of sexual harassment at the hands of the “popular varsity jocks,” including something called the (sic) “scorpian.”
“Scorpian is the term the athletes use for sticking their finger up a boy’s butt,” she said, sharing with me a Facebook comment from one student to another.
“If u wanna make friends u gotta scorpian :),” the student’s comment stated.
The Nicks claim other forms of sexual misconduct also are taking place within the school’s athletic programs, including male students “sword-fighting” with their penis, and a hazing ritual involving the licking of another student’s butt.
“One boy was held down by other players and forced to lick this certain boy’s (expletive) before they let him up,” Kim said. “Kids won’t shower after gym class because they are afraid.”
Dale’s email to School Board members stated, “We are demanding that ALL male student athletes from the basketball, track & cross country, baseball, volleyball and soccer teams be questioned.”
George Letz, the school district’s superintendent, told me earlier this week that the school is conducting an internal investigation regarding the Nicks’ allegations. Results of the investigation should be concluded by the week’s end, he said.
This past Friday morning, the Nicks met with Letz to elaborate on their accusations, providing him with names of students, and reminding him that his focus should not be to protect the school’s image, but instead to protect its students.
On Friday, Letz told me his investigation is continuing into this coming week after learning of newly discovered allegations that day. He instead issued this prepared statement.
“The entire staff at MSD of Boone Township is vigilant concerning the safety of our students under our supervision. The safety of everyone in our buildings is the first daily priority of all employees.
“To that end we will conduct and are currently conducting a thorough investigation of these circumstances brought to our attention. When the investigation is completed appropriate action, if necessary, will be taken according to our school district policies, Indiana Code and handbook regulations. All decisions will be based on what is best for our students; that is the way we always operate.”
Penn State’s ‘silver lining’
The Nicks and their son claim that similar antics took place at the school more than a year ago, and no punishment was handed out to any students.
“They told us they would take care of it,” Kim said. “Obviously, they didn’t.”
For first-hand insight, I tried to contact a few HHS students who were alleged victims or witnesses, and whose names were provided to me. None of them responded to my calls or emails.
“One boy has never even told his parents yet, and he’s having emotional issues,” Kim explained.
The Nicks say they have been threatened by some students since coming forward, and their son has been harassed, too.
“The whole student body knows now, along with a lot of parents, even some that don’t have students involved,” Kim noted.
So, was Andrew Nicks victimized by other male students? I don’t know. Was he blackballed from the basketball program for speaking up against alleged harassment? I don’t know. Were other students sexually harassed by so-called “boys will be boys” horseplay? Again, I don’t know.
But this much I do know.
The state of Pennsylvania is now considering a new legislative bill to strengthen its mandatory child abuse reporting law. It would close a loophole and require anyone who’s aware of abuse to report it to law enforcement officials, not simply follow any in-house chain of command.
Yes, it’s sad that we as a society have to mandate by law something that obviously should be a moral mandate for all of us — reporting child sex abuse. But if this is what it takes to prompt, or scare, some people into reporting such hideous acts, then so be it.
Last week, I visited the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, which deals with thousands of sexually abused children and their families each year. The kid-friendly center is a sort of one-stop shopping for healing families, offering them access under one roof to cops, courts, doctors, and counselors to deal with their victimization.
The center’s street-savvy staff agreed that if there is a silver lining to the Penn State sex abuse scandal, it’s that at least it raised awareness of a chronic problem that still remains stigmatized by shame and secrecy.
“Because everybody is talking about it these days, maybe it will prompt more people to come forward and report abuse,” one counselor told me.
When she told me that, I immediately thought about Dale and Kim Nicks and their allegations against those Hebron High School student-athletes and possibly the school officials who may have known about such shenanigans.
Even if the couple’s eye-opening claims cannot be 100 percent proven, or the school’s internal investigation is less than satisfying, at least they reported it in the first place. If it stops another student from getting “hazed,” hassled or sexually harassed, they did the right thing.
This is more than can be said for too many others who’d rather sweep such messiness under the proverbial rug or, in this case, into yet another athletic locker room.
Jerry will discuss this issue on his “Out to Lunch” radio show this Monday at noon on WVLP, 98.3-FM, www.wvlp.org. Call in at 476-9000.