Police investigating 'teabagging' sexual assault
By Danny Robbins and Alex Branch
Star-Telegram Staff Writers
This article contains sexually explicit language.
Authorities in Lubbock are investigating an incident in which three members of the boys basketball team at Southwest Christian School in Fort Worth are accused of holding down a younger teammate and rubbing their genitals on his head, neck and shoulders during a road trip.
The case is under review by the Lubbock County district attorney's office, said Kim Hayes, chief of the office's juvenile division. A decision on whether charges will be filed could be made within two weeks, she said.
The report filed with Lubbock police lists the offense under investigation as indecency with a child, a second-degree felony.
The alleged conduct, known as "tea bagging," is similar to several hazing cases involving high school athletes that have drawn national attention in recent years.
Lubbock police began investigating after receiving a report in early February from the father of the accuser, who was 14 at the time, said Lt. Roy Bassett, a department spokesman.
The father told police that the incident occurred about 2:30 a.m. Jan. 7 at an Embassy Suites hotel in Lubbock, according to the police report. Southwest Christian played Lubbock Trinity Christian on Jan 8.
The father reported the incident to police because Southwest Christian officials had taken little action against the players accused of tormenting his son, the police report said.
The father was quoted in the report as saying he had removed his son from the school, which overlooks Benbrook Lake.
Southwest Christian coach Kerry Robinson said it is "common knowledge" that "some kids missed some games" as punishment for their roles in the incident. He declined to elaborate. He said any additional comment would have to come from Scott Barron, the school's president.
Barron, in a statement, said the school took "appropriate disciplinary action" but did not specify what that action was. He said in the statement that the school interviewed all the people involved to understand what occurred and that the information they provided was "consistent.
In an interview, Barron said the school prohibits hazing but has no set policy on punishment for violations.
Asked about the accuser, he said there has been "a lot of healing."
Southwest Christian finished last season with a 29-9 record and advanced to the semifinals of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools 4A state playoffs.
Several high-profile school hazing cases, most involving athletic teams, have focused attention on the issue in recent years.
"These are activities that have been going on for a long time, and, for some reason, no one has been saying anything," said Ron Binder, associate director for residential life at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and a specialist in hazing matters. "People are realizing that things they may refer to as 'high jinks' are causing people to get hurt mentally or physically, leaving some pretty serious scars."
Cases in which victims were restrained and rubbed with their attackers' genitals have been among the reported incidents of hazing in high school athletics.
In 2002, such an incident caused Central Catholic High School in Oakland, Pa., to pull its football team from the state playoffs.
The matter led to a criminal case in which the two attackers received eight months' probation and were ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
School hazing may not be obvious sexual assault, experts on the subject say, but it should be considered as such. Like rape, they say, it is at its core a crime of domination instead of sexual gratification.
"What if these things were done by gang members?" said Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin College in Indiana who has studied hazing on a variety of levels. "We have no trouble hitting gang members with huge penalties. This is a ganglike mentality, where stronger members beat up on weaker ones."
Nuwer said his research has shown that the punishment for such crimes is "all over the map.
Under Texas law, hazing by students attending public or private high schools can be prosecuted as a Class B misdemeanor.
Many area public school districts specify that such conduct can lead to removal from school. In the Fort Worth school district, hazing is classified as assault and can result in suspensions of 15 to 30 school days.
In the Southwest Christian incident, the father told police that his son said the attack occurred after three of his teammates entered his hotel room, according to the police report.
The father also told police that his son said his attackers used their fingers to touch his anus through his underwear but were unsuccessful in penetrating it, according to the report.
The accused teammates, identified in the report as suspects one, two and three, were 16 at the time, said Bassett, the Lubbock police spokesman.
Fort Worth police detectives with the Crimes Against Children Unit have helped interview suspects and witnesses, said Sgt. Dave Stamp, who heads the unit.
He said he cannot recall a similar incident in his four years with the unit.
"There's often an embarrassment factor for the victim in reporting something like that," he said.
Hayes, the Lubbock County prosecutor, said her office will probably offer Tarrant County the option of handling the case because the teens involved live there.
"Their families are there, and you have to have the parents come to court," she said. "Sometimes it just makes more sense."
Staff writer Yamil Berard contributed to this report.