GREAT BEND, Kan. – Three students were arrested Monday in a protest over their school district’s handling of a sexual hazing incident on a school activity bus earlier this month police said “got out of hand.”
About 100 protesting students marched from Great Bend High School to the district’s administrative offices to show their disgust for the school district’s handling of an allegedly violent and sexual hazing incident that occurred on a swim team bus trip to Manhattan earlier this month, KSN reports.
Parent Michele O’Neil told KWCH her 14-year-old son was cornered in the back of the bus by older classmates who stripped off his pants and attempted to force their fingers, toes, and a shoe in his rectum.
O’Neil contends that despite her complaint to the swim coach, school officials did not immediately call police about the incident and only imposed very mild punishments on some of the alleged offenders. She also said her son isn’t the only victim and the incident wasn’t a first.
“I called the police that night. They didn’t,” the victim’s mother told KSN.
District officials refuse to discuss the alleged hazing gone wrong with parents or the media, citing federal privacy laws. Superintendent Brad Reed did, however, commend school employees for how they handled the allegations, according to the news site.
The situation isn’t sitting well with parents or students, who marched Monday to demand answers from the school board and vent their frustrations.
“I’m very appalled. I was shocked, and I’m glad the community came together to show support for the situation,” protest organizer Anakin Vlachos said.
When students arrived at the district’s administrative center police were on hand to control the crowd, and “at one point (students) blocked the entrance of the USD 428 board offices,” Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said.
When officers ordered students to disperse, all but three complied and those who didn’t were cuffed and detained, KSN reports.
“It’s unlawful to block a public building, and the school board administration asked that we take them into custody for a short period of time, they were subsequently released,” the sheriff said.
Ellsworth County Sheriff Tracy Ploutz is investigating the alleged attack. He told the Great Bend Post there’s a lot of information to sort out.
“We’re not even close to being finished, and I use the term hazing just as a term,” he said. “It was just pranks … that escalated to something worse and got out of hand, is what happened.”
Great Bend Police contacted Ploutz to investigate the incident because the alleged attack occurred in his jurisdiction.
“With what information we’ve gathered, I’m looking at three to possibly four victims, and four to possibly five you would call accused or suspects,” Ploutz said.
Ploutz told KAKE all of the alleged victims were 14 years old, and the suspects are upperclassmen.