Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

January 12, 2012

Hazing insults shot at unrelated AHS hockey team

Team captain says Woburn apology after cookie incident was 'nice to hear'

By Dustin Luca
STAFF WRITER

It was the third period of the Andover Warriors hockey game at Woburn High School. Liam Centrella, Andover High captain, was skating onto the ice when a round object caught his eye. But it wasn't a puck, he said.

"A few cookies were thrown onto the ice," said Centrella. "I tried to get my team to use it for motivation, but at the same time, it was a bummer that it was happening."

Just over a month ago, hazing allegations within the school's basketball program sparked a media fire storm at Andover High School. In the incident, players involved in the Andover High basketball program were allegedly coaxed into playing a humiliating sex game by other players, where the loser ate a cookie covered in a bodily fluid.

After the news broke, there was concern that opposing fans might hurl cookies or insults at member of the boys basketball team at games this winter. Security and administrative oversight was increased to start the basketball season.

Centrella didn't expect that other teams would be faced with taunting, too.

"For some of us, it is a little confusing," said Centrella. "How did this come on us? We aren't necessarily the team that had to deal with it."

The hockey team heard from fans at another game five days later, when the team was playing in Chelmsford on Jan. 4. Prior to that game, rumors had circulated around Chelmsford High School that the same cookie-throwing stunt would take place.

Chelmsford school leaders squashed the effort, however, according to Chelmsford High Principal Anne O'Bryant.

"We heard wind that the kids might try to do that, and at the end of the day I made an announcement," said O'Bryant. "I just asked our students to be respectful of our competitive team members, and that we wouldn't want people to be making fun of us if something happened here."

No cookies were thrown in Chelmsford, but there was some chanting that "went on the whole game," said hockey parent John Mciver. In this case, those cheering the home team chanted "Eat the Cookie!" during the game.

"It wasn't stopped at all," said Mciver, whose son Matt plays wing on the Andover High team. "There's always going to be some ribbing, some things said, but I don't think it's fair to them. I don't think they should have to deal with it at all."

So far, the Woburn and Chelmsford games are the only two games this season that the team has lost. According to coach Mike Ciarletta, that's only a coincidence.

"On both nights, we didn't have our best games," said Ciarletta. "I don't think it had to do with what the crowd was doing. It had to do with what we were doing and, more specifically, what we were not doing."

That same week, the players were visited by players and school administrators from Woburn, who stopped by Andover High to apologize for their prior actions.

"They sat us down, and the [Woburn] coach and principal gave us a few words, and they sincerely apologized and shook our hands," said Centrella. "It was really nice to hear."

Andover High Principal Tom Sharkey and Athletic Director Chris Bergeron did not return calls seeking comment.

Coach Ciarletta said the team is ignoring the insults. It spent last weekend raising over $500 for cancer research in the "Resolution Run to Kick Cancer" in Lexington, and on Townsman deadline, the team was tied for the division lead.

"We're reaching a critical stretch in the season," said Ciarletta. "We have five games coming up over an 11-game stretch. It's important we get hot now. The kids know what's in front of us, and I think we're ready to go."

HAZING REPORT HITS PUBLIC EYE; INCIDENT WAS FILMED

Last week, a lawsuit was filed in the Lawrence Superior Court relating to the alleged hazing included a report on the actions from Andover High School interim Principal Tom Sharkey.

The case requires individual consent from the attorney representing the plaintiffs to see the report. That attorney didn't return several phone calls from the Townsman, but the documents were provided to sister-publication The Eagle-Tribune. The following is a summary of the report's details, as published in The Eagle-Tribune.

The legal action is being taken by two players who were at the camp and received three-day suspensions for failing to report the hazing incident to school officials. The students seeking to have their suspensions revoked, if successful, won't have them on their permanent record for colleges and future employers to see, according to Alex Cain, the attorney representing the two players.

In his report, Sharkey determined that while the camp "was not a 'school-sponsored' event, our policies clearly apply to the conduct."

Sharkey wrote all of the students interviewed told him that newcomers to the camp "were always subject to pranks." But some of the students told him the pranks that occurred this year "were much more extreme than what they had experienced as newcomers in the past," Sharkey wrote.

Two of the nine students were identified as newcomers and "were subjected to a number different acts of initiation." Maple syrup was poured on their sheets, clothes were taken and they were forced to walk through common areas naked. Excrement was left in one of their beds in a bag positioned to open up if someone leaned on it, Sharkey wrote.

The "Cookie Incident," as Sharkey dubbed it in his report, occurred on the third day at camp when students were gathered in the dormitory in between basketball games. The two ringleaders gave the newcomers "three choices that had been conjured up during the stay at the camp," Sharkey wrote. Two included stripping naked and coming in contact with each other and the other was to masturbate on a cookie and risk having to eat it.

One ringleader told a younger boy he would "defecate on his face while he was sleeping if he did not participate," Sharkey wrote in his report.

The report said the hazing was filmed using a Smartphone.

Cain noted the incidents occurred in the summer before they attended Andover High. He said his clients were not aware of any obligation to report the incidents to school officials.

"These students were absolutely concerned for their safety. They were concerned they could be next. The ringleaders then took active steps to silence them during the school year," said Cain, noting both boys had just graduated from eighth grade when they went to the basketball camp in July.

But Sharkey concluded "All nine of the students failed to report the incidents to anyone on the AHS staff or to the police." Sharkey added the behavior constitutes violations of the district's anti-bullying and anti-hazing policies.