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State's attorney orders review of Maine West High School hazing case

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is looking into the hazing scandal at Maine West High School in suburban Des Plaines.

The office is reviewing claims of physical and sexual abuse among students on the school’s soccer and baseball teams.

This comes after a lawsuit was filed against the Maine Township High School District 207 last month. Four plaintiffs have joined a civil lawsuit involving the hazing allegations.

Investigators are looking into whether school officials knew about the incidents when they allegedly happened and how officials handled them. The school district and the Des Plaines police are also investigating.

Maine West students and neighbors had mixed reactions to the allegations.

Junior Henry Mejia said he is worried about how these events are going to affect the reputation of the school and its students.

“I will say it kind of impacts us a lot,” said Mejia. “They are just bringing up a lot of negativity, and they are not really seeing the good we have done.”

He said before this incident, he never heard of bullying or hazing happening at the school.

But Ivan Torres, who's a junior and a former member of the cross-country team, said initiations were common among sport teams at Maine West.

“I know that some other sports have traditions or things to join in, but they are not considered hazing, but they still have similar things to get in,” said Torres. “I was in cross country before, I knew that there was some stuff going (on) in there too, but that I know of, (it) is not as strong as the allegations against the soccer team.”

“I don’t want my kids to go through that,” said Bal Gava, a resident who lives near the school. “I hope that something is done so this will not happen in the future anywhere else, not only in this school, but any other school.”

He said if school officials knew about the incidents of abuse, they should not be working there. “If they were aware of the situation, (if) they let this happen, I want them fired,” said Gava. “But like I said, an investigation should be done.”

Sean Sullivan is president of the District 207 Board of Education. In a recent statement, he said the district has established multiple programs throughout each of its school buildings to deal with bullying and hazing. He also said the board will hire its own investigator to fully examine the issue.   

"We expect this investigation to supplement multi-agency investigations already being conducted by District 207 and Maine West administrators, Des Plaines police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services,” he said.

Students and coaches are now required to sign an anti-hazing pledge if they enroll in sports or other school activities. Other measures involve additional staff training, focus groups to review anti-hazing polices, and a hotline for students to report bullying or hazing.

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