‘Totally shocked’: Damascus High parent says community wants more info amid locker room sex assault investigation

A Montgomery County school bus is seen in this Dec. 23, 2015 WTOP file photo. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
ROCKVILLE, Md. — The parent of a Damascus High school football player says the reported sexual assault of four members of the junior varsity team in a school locker room, has left the entire community struggling.

The parent, who asked not to be recorded or named to protect his son’s privacy, said his son, who was neither accused nor one of the victims, has considered transferring schools in the wake of the report.

“I’m broken,” the father told reporters after a news conference Monday held by Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith.

The parent said his son was as stunned as parents have been by reports of the attacks. “He was totally shocked and taken aback that anything could happen like this — he’s never heard of it,” said the parent, referring to the report that “brooming” was considered a tradition among team members.

The parent said he’d heard of roughhousing involving the team, but it amounted to “just pushing and laughing,” he said.

The father said he’s upset with how the Damascus High School principal Casey Crouse, handled the case. He said after the initial report of the assault in a high school locker room, the principal called the team into her office and seemed to cast blame on the entire team.

The parent said there’s been scant communications from school officials, aside from a letter informing parents that their son’s high school records had been subpoenaed as part of the police investigation into the attack on the four junior varsity players. The incident led to the arrest of five team members on charges of second-degree rape and attempted second-degree rape.

In the past, the parent said, JV football players had to go to study hall after school before practice started at 3:30 p.m. However, starting about two years ago, the JV players had been allowed to kill time between the end of classes and the start of practice by going off campus and getting food, or simply hanging around until the start of practice, the parent said.

During a news conference Monday, Smith, the school system superintendent, said he couldn’t give any details about whether any adults had been disciplined. “Let’s wait until the police and the state’s attorney do their work” Smith, said.

Smith also pushed back against what he called “social media justice,” in which he said a large number of students get blamed for some incident in the news before police wrap up their investigation.

During the news conference, Smith told reporters that the school system is implementing new training for all students involved in extracurricular activities. They will be briefed on what hazing is, how to identify it, and how to speak up if they believe they see hazing going on. He said the seriousness of hazing would be emphasized. “Sometimes it results in death — there have been incidents where students have died in this country,” Smith said.

Even if a student had gone through the training for another sport, they’d still have to sign up for the training for a new season, he said.

At-Large School Board member Jill Ortman-Fouse said she thought that the discussion of hazingand how dangerous it can be should be part of the curriculum that students get in a “body awareness” class in which they’re taught about sexual assault.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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