LA PUENTE, Calif. – Four teenagers have been cited, a teacher coach has been suspended and dozens of students have been interviewed as deputies investigate alleged hazing by high school soccer players at La Puente High School.
Several players at the school east of Los Angeles claim they were hazed by teammates on school grounds last spring, Los Angeles County sheriff's Sgt. Dan Scott said Monday.
Scott didn't reveal the nature of the allegations but they are being investigated by a unit that usually handles sex crimes and an attorney who said he is representing four victims said the hazing involved sexual abuse and assaults.
Detectives have interviewed more than 70 people since school started this fall, Scott said. Four teens were cited and ordered to appear in court next month. One is 18 and graduated this year, while the others are under 18. Scott said he did not know if they were still in school.
The teacher coach for the soccer team was placed on paid leave, Hacienda La Puente School District Superintendent Barbara Nakaoka told reporters.
Scott said detectives were aware of the suspension, but detectives so far had no proof of his involvement.
The alleged hazing occurred last spring before school ended for the summer.
Detectives have talked to people associated with the school as far back as 2003, Scott said. "But there is no indication anything occurred that long ago. We are looking at the last couple of years."
Attorney Brian Claypool held a news conference Monday saying he was representing four students. He said the players had just made the varsity team and were hazed by older team members.
The coach lured the younger boys to a back room at the school so older varsity members on the team could sexually assault them by attempting to sodomize them with a foreign object, Claypool alleged.
"The school knew or should have known that these horrific acts were being carried out on school grounds," he maintained.
Rather than saying there are four victims, detectives are saying a handful, Scott said. "We are not going to put a number on it. We are working with the district attorney. We will present the facts to him. We will decide what is best for the case. Once the district attorney makes a decision, we'll know how many -- if any -- are victims and if any charges will be filed," Scott said.
One of the problems, Scott explained, is that the students may be victims of hazing but they may not be victims of crime.
When hazing becomes a crime is not an easy question to answer, he said. "It depends on how hazing is defined. It's a very broad term. If you assault someone, it would be a crime. If you endanger someone's health and safety, it would be a crime. We are looking at all those aspects."
None of those involved required hospitalization, he said.