Falcon High School suspended coaches of its football team and forfeited upcoming games after officials found “multiple coaches and multiple parents knew of hazing and harassment activities … that are under investigation by local law enforcement,” the school’s principal said in an email to parents Wednesday.
The investigation was not addressed during the District 49 school board meeting on Wednesday evening, however after the meeting, District 49 Chief Education Officer Peter Hilts said the following: “What I am confident about is, when an issue is this complex, there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, and there is wisdom in the written word. We are going to be really careful about sharing our position in writing so that we are not impromptu or extemporaneous.”
Preliminary investigations by El Paso County deputies have determined that several juveniles were involved in a hazing incident involving members of the football team, Lt. Deb Mynatt announced Wednesday. Deputies are now investigating to see if there was criminal misconduct in the scandal that rocked the school on Eastonville Road on the eastern outskirts of Colorado Springs this week. The school is also conducting an administrative review and reported the situation to the Colorado High School Activities Association, the state regulatory body for high school sports.
“Sadly, we have also learned that teammates from multiple grade levels participated, observed, and recorded the hazing and harassment,” Darryl Bonds, Falcon’s principal said in the email to parents. “We are also saddened by reports of threats and harassment directed against the students who made the initial report.”
According to emails obtained by the Gazette, the investigation surrounds hazing acts that may have been sexual in nature that occurred after practice in the team’s locker room.
One parent, whose son played on the Falcon football team, spoke to The Gazette on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation against his son. The parent said he found out about the incident in question Sept. 14.
When he picked up his son from practice, he noticed that his son looked agitated, so he asked what was wrong. His son told him he witnessed apparent sexual misconduct in the locker room.
The parent raised his concerns with Bonds. He asked if the incident was consensual, and the principal told him it was not. Bonds referred to one of the students as the “victim” in the incident.
“The victim was frightened,” the parent said Bonds told him.
The parent said he believes the Falcon coaching staff has created an environment that made some players feel above reproach, and that he shared that concern with Bonds.
Bonds also relayed to the parent that incidents like this one have happened previously.
“I said, ‘So this is not an isolated incident?’ He said, ‘No it’s not’,” the parent said of his conversation with Bonds.
El Paso County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lt. Deb Mynatt said deputies learned of the incident the following morning, Sept. 15, when a school resource officer was told about a possible hazing incident.
The Falcon football parent said he doesn’t believe Bonds became aware of the situation until recently.
“There are good coaches on the team. I just think it’s an environment that got out of control,” he said.
Bonds commented on that environment in his email to parents Wednesday evening.
“Coaches, parents, and students have told us they did not report what they knew because it might negatively affect their playing status or the team’s season,” he said. “That is unacceptable. The silence created the conditions that prolonged the harassment and hazing of smaller and younger students.”
Bonds continued, commending the courage of students who spoke out, and the action of adults who launched an investigation. The students involved will be subject to disciplinary action from both the school and law enforcement.
The Falcon football team will forfeit its contest to Mesa Ridge on Saturday. The Falcons were 2-2 heading into that game and went 5-3 in 2020. Falcon plays Class 4A football and are coached by second-year coach Darrel Gorham. The team’s future remains uncertain, but Bonds said the goal is to finish the season.
“FHS and district administrators will determine the best path forward for the program, with the goal of resuming the season under new leadership,” he said.