Principal admits ‘critical oversight’ in apology to families over hazing investigation into football team
MECHANICSVILLE, Va. (WWBT) - The principal of Mechanicsville High School, which has been involved in a hazing investigation, is apologizing to parents.
In a message addressed to parents Thursday, Principal Charles Stevens apologized to families for not directly communicating with them sooner.
The entire Mechanicsville High football program is suspended while the school system and sheriff’s office investigate allegations of hazing among players.
Stevens points out their initial focus was conducting a thorough investigation.
“While our initial focus was on conducting a swift and thorough investigation, the volume of interviews was significant and we overlooked this important responsibility,” he said in the message to parents. “Understandably, this critical oversight has upset many of you. Moving forward, I will communicate as much information as I am able in a timely manner and to the greatest extent possible.”
The message comes about a week after the sheriff’s office reached out to the school about the allegations, according to a Hanover County Schools spokesperson.
“I want to assure you that our goal is to get our student-athletes back on the field as quickly as possible. However, this cannot occur until the investigation is complete, and we simply cannot rush such an important process,” he said.
Parents initially reached out to NBC12 investigators Tuesday about an alleged assault among the football team’s upperclassmen and younger players and were upset that they first heard about the incident from their kids, not the school.
“While I understand that you are anxious for answers and a resolution, please understand that I am still very limited in what I can share given the ongoing investigations - both by the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and our own,” Stevens said. “Although I do not yet know what the investigations will reveal – and the outcome will inform what next steps may be necessary – I understand that this entire situation is upsetting for many reasons.”
According to the Virginia High School League, high school coaches must take part in a Coaching Education Mandate, which must be completed within two years of a coach’s hiring. Coach Shane Reynolds was hired at the beginning of the year.
The seven-part course includes completing the child abuse training course offered by the Virginia Department of Education.
The school division says that Reynolds has completed all required VHSL Coaching Mandate Training.
NBC12 has reached out to the school division on the status of their upcoming games and is awaiting a response from a spokesperson.
The high school already forfeit its season opener game against Deep Run High School on Thursday, a move that will likely cost the school division thousands of dollars the longer the investigation takes.
According to the school division last year, the average gate revenue per Mechanicsville High School home football game was $5,756.71 for varsity and $1,200 for JV. For away games, that average was $1,758.96 for varsity. The combined total of the varsity and JV games for the season was nearly $47,000.
As more details from the investigation continue to come to light, Eric Oakes, the father of Adam Oakes, who was killed during a hazing incident at a fraternity at VCU, says the alleged assault involving Mechanicsville High School Football team only stresses the importance of hazing education and prevention at the high school level.
“Just hearing about any hazing going on in high school athletics is troubling because it’s 100 percent preventable,” Oakes said. “Hopefully we can carry that message into high school so students will be able to identify it in college, so that if they’re in a situation where they are being hazed, they can get out of that situation or get somebody help.”
Since Adam’s death, his family has established the nonprofit organization Love Like Adam Foundation, which strives to support, educate, and equip graduating seniors and their families with the transition from high school to higher education about the dangers of hazing, sexual assault, binge drinking and what to do in emergency situations.
“It’s really important to reach out to these young minds and warn them that it’s not OK to dominate and try to prevent that kind of bad behavior. Today it could be mental or physical abuse, but tomorrow it could be death.”
NBC12 reached out to the school division on the status of the upcoming games the Mustangs are scheduled to play. Though the start of the season has been postponed, a Hanover Schools spokesperson says no final decisions have been made and that once one has it will be communicated to parents.
“As we move forward, we will work to establish a positive, supportive culture for the entire football program, regardless of the outcome,” Stevens said. “The safety and well-being of our students is of the utmost importance and is our top priority in every decision we have made and continue to make, and this must always come first.”
Stevens is encouraging all parents with specific questions parents may have regarding their student or additional support they may need during the investigation to email him at email@example.com.
Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.