3 suspended De La Salle students sue over hazing inquiry
Lawyers for three students at Warren De La Salle Collegiate High School filed a lawsuit Monday in Macomb County Circuit Court, alleging they were singled out for lengthy suspensions in the wake of a hazing incident that led the school to cancel its state playoff football game.
In the 11-page legal complaint, lawyers for the three say the students were suspended around Nov. 4 and were told that their names "were mentioned in an investigation" into the hazing scandal that rocked the school last month.
The lawsuit contends the three students, who are persons of color, are on suspension while 10 white students allegedly being investigated as part of the hazing probe are continuing to attend school.
Warren police submitted warrant recommendations last month for three varsity football players in connection with allegations of hazing.
Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said last month the recommendations were submitted to the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office for three football players, ages 18, 16 and 16. At the time of the alleged incident, the 18-year-old was 17.
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith later recused his office from pursuing charges against the three students, saying one of his office's senior prosecutors could be a witness. The St. Clair County Prosecutor's Office has been appointed to the case.
The alleged hazing involved sexual threats with a broom but there was no penetration, Dwyer has said. A timeline released Monday by the school says Knight was notified Oct. 28 that a student had been "sodomized in the locker room" and makes repeated references to students allegedly being threatened with "broomsticking."
Though the three have not been charged, the lawsuit alleges that school president John Knight and the De La Salle Board of Trustees "continue to conspire to keep the three students from attending school and/or graduating."
"... the defendants, through their actions in indefinitely prohibiting the John Doe Plaintiffs from returning to school, have insinuated that (the students) have engaged in misconduct, which constitutes slanderous and libelous communication by the (school's president and board of trustees), and such information has been disseminated throughout the school and to the public at large."
The complaint contends that Knight has instructed other school officials to approach the three students and ask them to implicate other students as a condition of returning to classes.
The students' parents, according to the lawsuit, did not agree to Knight's alleged demands to "turn over names" but have agreed to meet with an investigator hired by Knight and the school's Board of Trustees to tell "the truth" and with the hope of clearing their sons' names.
The names of the students were withheld in the lawsuits and they are referred to as John Doe 1, John Doe 2 and John Doe 3.
Two of the students alleged their high school graduations "are in jeopardy" as a result of the school's actions.
The lawsuit also contends that Knight has informed all the students involved that he wanted to meet with each of them "to get their side of the story." Knight, according to the suit, told the students that if they did not meet with him it would "make his decision much easier" on whether they could return to school.
The school responded to the suit in a statement issued Monday by a spokesman, Peter Van Dyke.
“We cannot comment on legal matters. Since we were first made aware of the hazing activities, we have been steadfast in maintaining the safety, health and education of all De La Salle students as our top priority while we navigate this troubling issue."
The statement continued: "We have been working in full collaboration with our Board of Trustees and the Christian Brothers on all actions in response to the hazing allegations and will continue to do so as we address this lawsuit. Our hearts and prayers are with those impacted by the hazing, particularly the students who were victimized and their families.”
Sarah Rahal contributed.