DCFS: Credible evidence of abuse at Maine West

The state’s child welfare agency has ruled that two staff members at Maine West High School abused and neglected children, a revelation that appears to be linked to a soccer team hazing scandal at the Des Plaines school involving allegations of beating and sodomy.

An Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigation concluded on January 30 that there were “indicated” reports of abuse and neglect against both staff members, according to spokesman Dave Clarkin. An “indicated” report means that the agency uncovered credible evidence that abuse took place.
Clarkin declined to comment on whether the targets of the investigation were boys and girls varsity coach Michael Divincenzo and freshman boys coach Emilio Rodriguez.

Both men, who have denied knowledge of hazing and could not be reached for comment Saturday, have been suspended and face being fired in the wake of the scandal that was revealed in November.

Officials at Maine Township High School District 207 have also disciplined 10 students and did not renew the contracts of three other Maine West High coaches who were not full-time staff members.

The hazing accusations surfaced when the parents of a 14-year-old boy sued the school in November.

The lawsuit alleged that soccer coaches and school officials allowed a culture of hazing that led to the boy being sodomized and beaten by teammates on Sept. 27. The lawsuit also alleged that similar incidents took place as far back as 2007.

School officials, who are also investigating the claims, later alleged that varsity soccer players also grabbed the genitals of other players and dunked their heads in a hot tub during a training camp in 2012.
Clarkin, the DCFS spokesman, said three allegations of abuse were subtantiated against one staff member. Those records will be kept on file for 50 years, Clarkin said, which is procedure for instances of death or sexual penetration.

Seven allegations of neglect against the same staff member were substantiated, while four allegations of neglect against the second staff member were substantiated, Clarkin said.

Several other allegations against both staff members were deemed unfounded, he said.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office has said it is also investigating the allegations.

District spokesman David Beery said Saturday that officials had received a written memo from DCFS indicating they had completed an investigation, but the memo was “minimal” in information. He declined to comment specifically on the DCFS findings.

“From the initial onset of this, when we first received reports in September, we notified DCFS right away, and have been cooperating with their investigation all along,” Beery said.

Tribune reporter Jonathan Bullington contributed.


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