Los Angeles Times

Mater Dei to investigat­e hazing

School to hire independen­t firm to look at student safety after injury lawsuit.

- By Eric Sondheimer

Mater Dei announced it will ask an outside firm to conduct an independen­t investigat­ion into student safety and make other changes following a lawsuit that accused the school of endorsing hazing within the football program.

Father Walter Jenkins, Mater Dei’s principal, released a letter Tuesday to the Mater Dei community outlining changes in the response to the allegation a former football player sustained a traumatic brain injury following a February locker room fight.

In addition to the investigat­ion, Jenkins wrote he would establish a task force of industry athletic leaders to review the way the school’s athletic programs are structured.

Jenkins said Santa Ana police will conduct a review of campus safety.

And he planned to provide forums where alumni, parents and current students can provide feedback about player safety.

The letter was released the same day the California Interschol­astic Federation released a statement condemning hazing but also stating it’s up to schools to investigat­e misconduct.

“The CIF condemns hazing and maintains that such conduct has no place in the educationa­l setting,” the statement read.

“Hazing can be both physically and emotionall­y harmful, and schools should take the necessary steps to prevent and eliminate it from their school environmen­t.

“On-campus student misconduct involving a violation of a school’s code of conduct and/or State law falls within the responsibi­lity of the school’s administra­tion to investigat­e and address.

“The CIF will not comment further on the allegation­s of hazing regarding Mater Dei High School.”

Mater Dei’s football team has advanced to the CIF state championsh­ip Open Division bowl game Dec. 11 against San Mateo Serra. Coach Bruce Rollinson has declined to comment on a February fight highlighte­d in the lawsuit and captured by two videos.

The lawsuit states a firstyear football player was urged to participat­e in “bodies,” a fight between teammates with blows supposed to be limited to the torso. The player agreed and was struck repeatedly in the head by a bigger player, according to video viewed by The Times, leading to a traumatic brain injury.

The lawsuit states Rollinson acknowledg­ed players participat­ed in “bodies” frequently, the staff delayed medical treatment for the injured player, the staff declined to assist with a law enforcemen­t investigat­ion into the fight and the school tried to block the student from participat­ing in CIF sports after transferri­ng to another school.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer also issued a statement Tuesday explaining why his office declined to file charges regarding the fight.

“Neither player involved in this fight was made to participat­e against their will,” the statement read. “Other players in the locker room were seen milling around, playing on their phones and largely uninterest­ed in the punches being thrown by two of their teammates.

“The participan­ts knew they were being filmed and they started throwing punches. Some punches landed; others did not, but it is unequivoca­lly clear that both participan­ts attempted to land as many punches as possible.

“There is not a single shred of evidence to show that this was anything other than a mutual combat situation with two willing participan­ts who traded blow for blow, including repeated punches to each other’s heads.

“That does not make it acceptable. But it is not a crime.”

The statement added:“This incident has been thoroughly investigat­ed by law enforcemen­t and reviewed blow by blow by the most experience­d prosecutor­s in my office to see if we could prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. We cannot.”

‘There is not a single shred of evidence to show that this was anything other than a mutual combat situation.’ — Todd Spitzer,

Orange County district attorney

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