Officials Explain Why Hazing Charges is Appropriate – By Susan Hartley

NEW MADISON – Four of six Tri-Village basketball players receiving disciplinary action fr their role in misdemeanor hazing learned Thursday their suspensions will be upheld.

The board of education met in special session Thursday to discuss the appeals made by four of the six students, who have been suspended with a varying number of days off from school. Players also have been suspended from participating in a number of basketball games.

According to a board member who asked not to be identified, the board is aware of one victim and one attempted victim in what the Darke County prosecutor has termed “misdemeanor hazing.”

On Dec. 15, sheriff’s detectives began an investigation into the incident.

On Monday, Dec. 19, the sheriff’s department issued a statement to the media, stating detectives have conducted interviews with “approximately 11 people” and that “preliminary information supports that misdemeanor hazing incidents have occurred among students on the Tri-Village High School basketball team.”

Comments found on social media posts question the term “misdemeanor hazing,” referencing that nudity was involved and leaving some to wonder why the alleged incident is not being labeled sexual assault.

“What people don’t understand is that in order for an incident to have the elements of a sexual assault, it must have a sense of sexual gratification for the perpetrator,” said Deputy Cheif Mark Whittaker on Tuesday. “That’s not what’s going on here.”

Whittaker went on to say the investigation was continuing and the evidence collected thus far supports the misdemeanor hazing term.

“The victims who are coming forward are not sharing that info with us,” Whittaker said of alleged sexual conduct. “All I can report is what is being reported to me.”

Whittaker also cited lack of education on the part of the public as to Ohio law regarding sex offenses, which may be causing false information to be spread.

On Wednesday, Prosecutor Kelly Ormsby said he “could not discuss it too much in detail” due to waiting on the final report from the sheriff’s office.

“From what I understand so far whatever is might be was not done for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification for the people involved,” Ormsby said.

Ormsby also referenced Ohio law, stating “touching, whatever it might be has to be done for the sexual arousal or gratification. It doesn’t look like that was done. It was more harassment than sexual touching.”

Ormsby said he was giving a verbal briefing by Whittaker and one of the detectives conducting the investigation prior to making the decision on Dec. 19 to label the incident fourth degree misdemeanor hazing.

“The detectives will give me the full report sometime soon,” Ormsby said. At that time, he said, he will determine what charges may be filed.

Ormsby also said he would be talking to the “victims and families about what they want to see happen. I won’t be making a final decision (as to possible charges) until I see the final report and talk to the people involved.”

The sheriff’s department’s Dec. 19 press release stated school officials are cooperating with the investigation.

Superintendent Josh Sagester, who also works as the head basketball coach, was contacted by the Early Bird late Monday for comment.

Due to “student privacy and confidentiality,” Sagester said, “I cannot respond to questions. We are cooperating in the sheriff’s investigation.”

The Tri-Village Board of Education held a meeting Dec. 19, but would not respond to public questions or statements regarding the investigation.