Pine River Area Schools has announced that the remainder of the high school football season has been canceled due to bullying and harassment.
“As part of an investigation into allegations concerning bullying and harassment, it has become apparent that our current varsity football team has developed a toxic culture that we as a school district cannot accept,” said Pine River Superintendent Matt Lukshaitis in a press release.
Pine River had two more games left in the regular season against Houghton Lake and Chippewa Hills.
Lukshaitis explained that an investigation, “has mushroomed into a handful of investigations all stemming from similar incidents where bullying and harassment have been discovered. While not every player on the varsity football team has actively taken part, many members of the team stood idly by and said nothing while these things occurred creating a culture of hazing and bullying. This is not okay.”
Pine River decided to cancel the remainder of the season because, “Integrity means more to us than winning or losing. Our Pride is on the line. We cannot allow young men to bully other young men through an abuse of position or power. Hazing and bullying have no place on a football team or in a school district.”
“Because we want preserve a future where varsity football can safely return with honor, we are canceling,” said Lukshaitis. “The district, administration, and coaches apologize to our opponents in Weeks 8 and 9, and to our parents and community who mostly will have heard of this for the first time.”
Lukshaitis says the investigation has not been completed, but they have overwhelming evidence that it was, “a season-long history of maltreatment by one group of players upon another.”
“Without getting into specifics which we cannot do without jeopardizing ongoing investigations this sort of hazing that has gone on here this football season has to come to an end,” Lukshaitis stated. “Sadly, if we were to remove all those who acted badly or stood silent and did nothing to speak up for others, then we would be left with not enough players to even dress out a team. The varsity football season is therefore immediately canceled. It is our job now to own our mistakes and correct this environment.”
Both Houghton Lake and Chippewa Hills are seeking new opponents after Pine River canceled its season. Pine River was 1-6 through seven games this season.
The full letter from Superintendent Lukshaitis can be viewed below: