FRUITLAND — Law enforcement officials have completed their investigation into the hazing incident on Oct. 14 with Fruitland High School football players, in which three junior varsity students were allegedly victimized by varsity players.
Payette County Sheriff Andy Creech said in an email on Thursday evening to members of the media and Payette County Prosecutor Mike Duke that his office had completed the investigation. Furthermore, he stated a commitment to working with the Fruitland School District and the prosecutor “to see that this incident is resolved in a way that discourages hazing in high school sports.”
According to Creech, the incident happened in three jurisdictions: Fruitland, Ontario and Payette County. The report from the Sheriff’s Office lists eight suspects, including three who are 18, four who are 17 and one who is 16.
Nobody has been formally charged with a crime, however, there is a possibility of assault charges for those involved, and those could mean felony charges, depending on what the prosecutor wants to do.
Names of the football players potentially facing charges were not released, and Creech stated that he would defer to Duke to release names when it is appropriate. Duke since told the newspaper that he would not release names of any juveniles; however, would provide more information to the Argus later today.
Since the hazing, Creech said he has heard community feedback on both sides, with comments split over the matter.
“Some people feel like this is part of sports and you put up with that,” the sheriff said. “While it might have been something that was OK at some point in our lives, but I’m not really sure it still is. To this degree, I don’t think it is.”
When it comes to playing pranks, Creech said the danger is “eventually you try to one-up each other.”
According to Next Generation Village, which helps teenagers overcome drug and alcohol abuse, teen hazing is more common than most parents recognize.
While hazing is not tracked by any official state or federal agencies, data from research projects aimed at tracking it have found that 1.5 million high school students — boys and girls — are hazed ever year, with 30% of those activities being potentially illegal. Furthermore, more than 90% of high-schoolers say they believe their peers would not report hazing incidents.
How we got here
Two students who play football on Fruitland High School’s junior varsity team allege that on Oct. 14 they and another student were victims of a hazing incident.
Superintendent Lyle Bayley would not previously comment on disciplinary actions for any of the students, however said the district was aware of the complaint and following up on it, as they would with anything that goes against the district policy.
According to the initial complaint, 11 members of the varsity football team were involved in the hazing of three students, two who are 14 and one who is 15.
The incident was reported to the Payette County Sheriff’s Office by two of the students the night that it allegedly occurred. According to the complaint, after a junior varsity game on Oct. 14, the varsity players took the younger players to McDonalds.
After eating there, the older players allegedly drove the victims to Birding Island South, outside of New Plymouth and tied the younger players to a fence, shocking one of them with a dog collar. The complaint states that the varsity players then removed the restraints and returned the younger football players to the high school.