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Published August 30, 2010, 01:28 PM

Elk River schools defend hazing claim response

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A school board decision to kick four Elk River High School football players off their team and suspend several others for multiple games over a hazing incident shows how serious board members consider the issue, a district spokesman said Monday.

By: CHRIS WILLIAMS, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A school board decision to kick four Elk River High School football players off their team and suspend several others for multiple games over a hazing incident shows how serious board members consider the issue, a district spokesman said Monday.

The Elk River Area School Board met in a closed session Sunday night and voted to boot four players from the team, suspend three others for four games and two players for one game each. The district will provide mandatory hazing awareness training for the entire Elk River High School varsity football team. It will also counsel individual players.

"Anyone who thinks this is funny really should be looking at the consequences," Casey Mahon, a district spokesman, said Monday. After board Chairwoman Sue Farber announced its decision, two players told a television station the district overreacted.

Early last week, several football players where held down by their teammates and poked in the buttocks with the handle of a broom or mop, police said. It happened in the high school wrestling room. The players were clothed and wearing football pads.

The district learned about the hazing early last week when a parent complained. The district interviewed the 54 players on the team, suspended all organized team activities and called police. It hired an outside law firm to investigate further.

That firm, Ratwik, Roszak and Maloney, has not yet finished its investigation into the team's coaches. In the meantime, seven coaches have been reinstated while five coaches remain on paid administrative leave.

"This past week has been one of the most difficult chapters in the history of Elk River High School," Farber said in a prepared statement read to the media after the meeting. Citing privacy laws, she declined to provide the names of the students involved.

Matt Madsen and Tyler Roserdahl, who play on the team, told KSTP-TV they thought the district was overreacting.

"I just think this whole thing just got blown up out of proportion from what it should have been," said Madsen.

"We're a family and we're being broken up because of a joke that's gone way out of proportion," Roserdahl said.

Elk River Police Chief Jeffrey Beahen said his department expected to finish its investigation Monday evening and forward the case the prosecutors on Tuesday. He doubted charges would be filed because many of the witnesses had stopped cooperating.

"Memories seem to be slipping," he said.

It may not have been the team's first hazing incident. "We've got communication from a former player that more serious things happened in the past, but we have not been able to confirm that," Beahen said.

Player Jory Lubinski told KSTP-TV that losing the players would hurt the team, which opens its season on Thursday at home against Becker. "The four of them are starters too," he said.

The Elks were 1-8 last season and haven't had a winning record since 2003.

Elk River is a town of about 22,000 people about 35 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

In response to the hazing case in Elk River, the Minnesota State High School League on Monday moved its anti-hazing materials to a more prominent place on its home page, www.MSHSL.org.

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