DJ FILE - Courts

The parents of a former Reed-Custer school district student have filed a federal civil lawsuit accusing the district of failing to end hazing that took place on the high school football team and led to the alleged sexual assault of their son in the summer of 2017.

Richard and Allison Brookman have brought the suit against the district, as well as principal Tim Ricketts, assistant principal Michael Smith, athletic director Chuck Anderson, two football coaches at the time of the incidents — head coach Mark Wolf and assistant coach Mike Mathieu — and high school teacher Butch Stafford.

Ricketts, Smith and Anderson remain in their positions.

Neither Wolf or Mathieu are part of the football program. According to the district’s website, Wolf is a social sciences teacher; Mathieu is a physical education teacher at the high school and middle school, and Stafford is a social sciences teacher at the high school.

The suit alleges the district did not follow policy in addressing hazing, abuse, bullying and assault, “which resulted in a significant injury to (the victim).”

While the lawsuit names the Brookman’s son, the Daily Journal is not identifying him since he is a juvenile.

The federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a now former Reed-Custer student by his parents Richard and Allison Brookman.

The Collins Law Firm of Naperville represents the family. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois in Chicago on Nov. 28. It argues the victim’s civil rights were violated.

“As a parent, myself, the district has an obligation to protect children from such actions. They (Reed-Custer) failed to protect (the victim),” attorney John Risvold told the Daily Journal on Wednesday.

The victim has transferred to another school district, Risvold said. He would not comment on where the family currently resides.

According to the lawsuit, the victim “was subjected to bullying, harassment and attempted sexual assaults as part of a culture of hazing and rituals known by the defendants. The lawsuit identifies four players, known as Doe 1-4, as being the ones who harassed, bullied and assaulted the victim.

The physical and sexual assaults occurred during the summer of 2017, between the victim’s eighth grade and freshman year.

According to the lawsuit, the boy “was the victim of a vicious sexual assault” committed by high school students who were members of the football program on July 19, 2017.

“Defendants were aware of, or tacitly acknowledged, a culture of abuse, hazing, bullying and assault, which resulted in significant injury (to the victim).”

The victim and his parents reported the sexual assault to the Braidwood Police. He was treated for his injuries at a Joliet hospital.

Will County state’s attorney’s office spokesman Charles Pelkie said three teens were charged as juveniles with aggravated battery. Their trial is set for Jan. 4.

The statement from Reed-Custer School District in regards to the July 2017 incident involving students during a high school football camp.

State law mandates the names of juveniles cannot be released.

The suit said the district, administration, coaches and staff did not follow school policy in regards to incidents of hazing and bullying. That included not contacting police or DCFS in regards to the incidents of abuse the victim sustained.

The lawsuit said after that the victim “was subjected to significant bullying, hazing, harassment and retaliation.”

“We unequivocally deny the plaintiffs’ allegations that school district officials ‘were aware of, or tacitly acknowledged, a culture of abuse, hazing, bullying and assault toward the individual; that hazing has been ‘part of the culture of the Reed-Custer football team for years;’ and that ‘coaches have either sanctioned these rituals or turned a blind eye toward them,’” superintendent Mark Mitchell said in a release.

“We intend to vigorously defend these baseless allegations and protect the reputation of our fine school district and its staff.”

The victim suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Risvold said the victim is in counseling.

According to the suit, the victim was threatened with physical abuse by a teacher, as well as bullied by students who said he should “kill himself” or “just die.” He was threatened with academic retaliation, which included numerous tardy slips from a teacher.

School administrators did punish the four students.

The suit alleges they “were given modest or no suspensions. No football players were removed from classes or otherwise suspended from school ... no disciplinary action was taken against any coach following the sexual assault of (the victim).”

“The high school administration or football coaching staff took no further action to address hazing on the football team following the incident on July 19, 2017,” according to the suit.

The Brookmans are asking for monetary damages, as well as costs incurred in bringing the suit.

The school district will have time to file a response. There are no new court dates set at this time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reporter

Jeff Bonty has worked for The Daily Journal since September 1986, starting in the sports department before moving to news reporting in 2002. He's a native of Indiana and graduate of Purdue University. His email is jbonty@daily-journal.com.