$1 million settlement for students who alleged Maine West hazing

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - Five former Maine West students who filed a lawsuit against the northwest suburban high school four years ago claiming they were sexually assaulted in a soccer hazing ritual have been awarded $1 million in a settlement.

Each of the five students was awarded $200,000 in the settlement, law firm Romanucci & Blandin and Maine Township High School District 207 announced Tuesday.

The suit, filed in November 2012 against the school, District 207 and several coaches, revealed the allegations of inappropriate hazing rituals taking place between students in the Des Plaines high school’s athletic program.

At least one student claimed teammates tore off his pants and underwear, pushed him to the ground, shoved his face in the dirt, punched him, grabbed his testicles and sodomized him with fingers and sticks, according to the suit.

Shortly after the hazing was reported, the school board disciplined the students involved and fired two teachers/coaches named in the suit, according to the statement from the school district.

Former Maine West soccer coach Michael Divincenzo was found not guilty of misdemeanor hazing and battery charges in 2014, the Sun-Times previously reported. A second coach, Emilio Rodriguez, was never charged, but was also fired.

“We applaud the Board of Education, along with District 207 and Maine West administrators, who handled the hazing allegations and reports seriously from the time they were made,” attorney Antonio Romanucci said in the statement.

“The children involved in this experience, along with their families, are happy that they have been able to put this chapter of their lives behind them. As they are now all adults, they are concentrating on their college studies, careers and bright futures,” Romanucci said.

“The Board has always denied and continues to deny that the District or any District administrator engaged in any wrongdoing related to the allegations in the lawsuit,”  the school district’s statement said.

“The settlement will bring to closure a matter that has weighed heavily on the entire community since 2012 and is in, in the judgement of the Board, in the best of interests of all involved.”

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