SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah mother said in a lawsuit Thursday that school officials brushed aside an alleged sexual assault of her son by his football teammates as “boys being boys” and hazing that went too far.
The woman said her 14-year-old son was pinned down by two teammates while a third rubbed his genitals on her son’s face on Sept. 17 in the small Utah city of Gunnison as several other players watched and laughed.
The three boys were criminally charged earlier this month.
One of the boys, a 16-year-old, also is charged with six counts of felony rape and five counts of forcible sexual abuse. So far, a total of 14 victims have come forward during the investigation, said Sanpete County Attorney Kevin Daniels. The alleged victims are students at the school, but it was unclear if they were members of the football team.
South Sanpete County Public Schools Superintendent Kent Larsen didn’t immediately respond to email and phone messages seeking comment.
The Associated Press is not naming the mother because doing so could identify her son and the AP typically does not identify alleged sex abuse victims.
The mother, her son and their attorney, Bob Sykes, spoke about the case at a news conference in Salt Lake City. The mother said she felt betrayed when Larsen told her what happened to her son was just “boys being boys” and characterized it as hazing that went too far.
She said officials at Gunnison Valley High School knew about the other assault allegations against the 16-year-old and should have intervened before her son was assaulted.
“They’ve created or cultivated a breeding ground for sexual predators in this school because they allow this behavior to be acceptable,” she said.
She and Sykes said the three boys were suspended from school for three days, but allowed to continue playing football. The woman and Sykes said they want a judge to force the school to update its bullying and sexual assault policies and adhere to them. They are also seeking unspecified monetary damages and an apology from school administrator.
“Keep our children safe,” she said. “I just want to be able to send my son to school and know that he’s going to be able to come home not in tears.”
Her son, a freshman linebacker on the junior varsity football team, said his attackers bullied him by labeling him a snitch after he reported the alleged assault. He said people whispered and talked about him in school hallways but his mother helped him realize he did the right thing by reporting the assault and agreeing to the lawsuit.
“They were in the wrong. I know I didn’t do anything wrong. I said what needed to be said,” the boy said. “If I didn’t say anything, it could happen to someone else.”