Maine Township High School District 207 is being sued by a family of a Illinois high school freshman for allegedly sanctioning the hazing of the family’s teen as part of a years-long ritual. The teen and teen’s mother are not named in news reports.
The unidentified mother showed up at a news conference in late November 2012 wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses to cover herself. She was with her attorney Antonio Romanucci.
Romanucci is Principal and Partner at Romanucci & Blandin, LLC. Romanucci writes on his law firm’s website that he began his legal career when his high school best friend suffered a fatal brain injury in a football game. After being deeply moved by the traumatic head injury, he turned his frustration into action by vowing to spend his life assisting victims of traumatic injuries.
Romanucci represents on his website that he has engaged in dozens of verdicts or settlements of $1 million or greater. The largest of his verdicts to date involves a $22.3 million verdict in a medical malpractice case in November 2009.
The hazed teen’s mother told the press: “I thought my son would be safe at school,” according to WLS-TV. She said she felt the coaches at her son’s school should have kept him safe on the soccer field, but they did not do that. When a school does not supervise its students, the school district can be sued for negligence or strict liability. In strict liability, the school district may be vicariously liable for the torts of its employees. In negligence, the school district may be directly sued for negligence based on negligent hiring, supervision, or retention of an employee.
The mother reports the school’s failure to respond to the teen’s hazing breaks Illinois state anti-bullying laws. The lawsuit alleges the son, a 14-year-old, and at least two other boys were sexually assaulted during soccer practice in September 2012. The beatings allegedly happened during school hours. The coaches at the school allegedly condoned the hazing. A school worker may be liable for participating in an assault, or by knowing that hazing is going on, and doing nothing.
The lawsuit complaint alleges that the teen’s teammates shoved three boys to the ground and assaulted them. Assault and battery involves someone touching another offensively without permission. The older players then held the teen and two other boys, pulled down their pants and underwear down, and sodomized them.
The plaintiff argues the ritual dates back years at the school as part of initiation for promotion to the varsity soccer team. The lawsuit alleges the Principal at the school knew or should have known about the ritual. The lawsuit claims two soccer coaches witnessed and allowed the ritual to continue with the teen.
“That behavior in today’s society is disgusting,” Romanucci said to the news. Doctors confirmed proof of sexual assault, according to the Daily Herald. School officials and police became aware of the situation after hearing students talk about bullying at the school. More than 100 people have been interviewed about hazing at the school.