Video of ‘hazing’ from Florida high school football team prompts coach, player suspensions
A Florida high school football program is under investigation after a locker room video of apparently lewd “hazing” acts went viral.
Viera High School, a part of the Brevard County on Florida’s east coast, has had all football activities suspended until further notice. The superintendent also relieved the head coach of his duties and suspended an unnamed number of students.
The video apparently shows players from the Viera High football team simulating sex acts. Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Mark Rendell called it hazing in a statement released Sunday.
“Hazing, bullying, and intimidation have no place in Brevard Public Schools. We have spent the past several days investigating the hazing incident involving members of the Viera High football team,” the statement reads.
Here’s what else we know.
What happened with Viera High School football team?
On Sunday, Aug. 20, Brevard School District suspended all Viera High School football activities and relieved Shane Staples, varsity head coach, of his duties in response to a viral video that depicted members of the team cheering and laughing as players simulated sex acts with each other.
It was not immediately known whether the students involved, or the parents, reported the incident to school officials. Viera High School principal Heather Legate had sent an email to parents over the weekend referencing the incident.
A hazing scandal that gripped the nation Northwestern athletics hazing scandal: What we know
What does the viral Viera High School football video show?
The 41-second video shows students laughing and jostling with uniformed players on the floor, attempting to pull back the shorts from one.
Some of the players, with others cheering, appeared atop students, thrusting and simulating sexual acts as what appeared to be condom packages were tossed onto the floor. A player was lifted off of his feet by another student. “That’s bad,” one student chimes in. “We are lit,” says another.
Were any Viera High School students suspended or expelled?
As of Sunday, an unnamed number of players were suspended as a result of the Brevard Public Schools investigation. Viera High School’s varsity football team was scheduled to play at South Fork on Friday, Aug. 25, and at Satellite High School in Satellite Beach on Sept. 1. Viera was scheduled to open its home season on Sept. 8 against Rockledge High School. The team did play Friday night.
Was anyone with Viera High School fired over the incident?
Viera High head football coach Shane Staples was relieved of his duties until further notice Sunday. Staples had been head football coach since2022.
Viera struggled mightily in 2022, with a record of 0-10. Following the 2021 season, head coach Derek Smith stepped down. Chad Raymond was briefly named head coach in January 2022 but stepped down in March 2022. Staples stepped up but didn’t have a lot of time to get the team in order. The team had higher hopes heading into 2023. Staples, 39, had been an assistant coach at Viera since 2017, coaching the Hawks wide receivers in 2021.
What did Brevard Public Schools say about the viral Viera High School football team video on social media?
After news of the video surfaced, Brevard Public Schools issued a statement about the incident on Saturday, Aug. 19: “There is an ongoing investigation into the actions of multiple Viera High School students. Our focus is to work with district security and school-based administrators to complete a thorough investigation in a timely manner.”
What did Viera High School principal say about the viral football team video?
On Saturday, Viera High principal Heather Legate issued an email to parents:
“Hello, Hawk Nation.
“I wish the victories at the kickoff classic weren’t overshadowed by the speculation currently circulating within our school community. As I’ve said to you before, I believe in transparency with my parents and community but there are times when the information I can give is limited. Anytime students are involved, I must adhere to FERPA, (Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act), when speaking about an incident. This prohibits me from giving names, details, and outcomes of disciplinary action. I can tell you that there was an incident this week involving multiple students. Please rest assured that I am investigating the situation and following the discipline policy set forth by Brevard Public Schools. I know that we are all on the same page about keeping every student safe on and off campus and appreciate your continued support.”
What did the Brevard Public Schools superintendent say?
Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Rendell issued a statement Sunday, outlining steps the school district will take in response to the investigation into the “hazing incident” with the Viera High School football team.
“Hazing, bullying, and intimidation have no place in Brevard Public Schools. We have spent the past several days investigating the hazing incident involving members of the Viera High football team. Today (Aug. 20), we have made the decision to suspend all Viera High football team activities (varsity and junior varsity) until further notice and we have relieved the varsity head coach of his duties until further notice. In an effort to educate the team to the seriousness of this incident, all Viera High football players will he required to take part in an anti-hazing educational program before there is a possibility that the football program could be reinstated. We will also host a parent-player team meeting to begin the process of improving team culture and raising expectations. Per BPS procedure, the players suspended for their actions will not be permitted to attend the meeting. I am confident a decision on the future of this year’s football season and the suspended players will be made soon. With that said, it is important to remember that this investigation is not over; district security, law enforcement, and the school district are still collecting information. Again, hazing has no place in Brevard Public Schools, and we must always act in the best interest and safety of our students.”
What happens next?
Rendell said the district would host a parent-player team meeting to “begin the process of improving team culture and raising expectations.” He also noted that he was confident a decision on the future of the program and the suspended players would be made soon.
What is hazing?
According to the 2023 Florida Statutes, chapter 1003.63, “hazing” means any action or situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for purposes including, but not limited to:
initiation into any organization
admission into any organization
affiliation with any organization
the perpetuation or furtherance of a tradition or ritual of any organization
The term “hazing” includes, but is not limited to:
pressuring or coercing the student into violating state or federal law
any brutality of a physical nature, such as whipping, beating, branding, exposure to the elements, forced consumption of any food, liquor, drug, or other substance, or other forced physical activity that could adversely affect the physical health or safety of the student
any activity that would subject the student to extreme mental stress, such as sleep deprivation, forced exclusion from social contact, forced conduct that could result in extreme embarrassment, or other forced activity that could adversely affect the mental health or dignity of the student.
The term does not include customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions or any activity or conduct that furthers a legal and legitimate objective.
Is hazing illegal in Florida?
Per the 2023 Florida Statutes, chapter 1003.63, hazing is prohibited.
What happened with hazing at Northwestern University?
A hazing scandal at Northwestern University made national headlines earlier this year and resulted in the firing of head football coach Pat Fitzgerald and multiple lawsuits against the school.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump was hired on retainer by 15 former football, baseball and softball athletes. He said that his conversations with players showed “a pattern and practice of a culture that was predicated on physical intimidation, harassment, discrimination, abuse both mentally and sexually, and it was normalized.”
The scandal started with a complaint to the school by a former athlete, which prompted an internal investigation and Fitzgerald’s two-week suspension. But shortly after, Northwestern’s student newspaper The Daily Northwestern published a story detailing the hazing acts, and Fitzgerald was fired two days after.
A subsequent lawsuit echoed allegations in the story: that hazing often took the form of coerced sexual acts known among players as “running.”
The complaint defines “running” as incidents in which a group of players forcibly held down a nonconsenting individual and “[rubbed] their genital areas against the [person’s] genitals, face, and buttocks while rocking back and forth.”
In response to questions about the lawsuit, Northwestern vice president for global marketing and communications Jon Yates wrote in an email to USA TODAY that the school is conducting a review of Northwestern athletics and its anti-hazing measures, while “working to ensure we have in place appropriate accountability for our athletic department.”
Contributing: Eric Rogers and Tim Walters, FLORIDA TODAY; Kinsey Crowley, USA TODAY NETWORK – Florida; Tom Schad and Josh Peter, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: After hazing video leaks, Florida high school football coach suspended