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California and the West

11 Barred From Sports Over Hazing

January 14, 1998|KATE FOLMAR and LISA FERNANDEZ | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — As punishment for their involvement in a hazing scandal, 11 members of the Westlake High School wrestling team have been barred from participating in any sports until December, and seven of those also have been suspended for five days, a school official said Tuesday.

The seven wrestlers spent Tuesday in "in-house suspension"--at school, but isolated from their classmates. Rather than attending classes, the group spent the day cleaning up trash at the campus, doing homework and studying for finals in solitude, parents said.

The students were notified of their discipline Monday for their involvement in the hazing incidents--in which at least three students were grabbed, pinned down and prodded in the buttocks with a broomstick.

An additional 17 wrestlers were admonished for being aware of the hazing and not notifying an adult; two students were cleared altogether with the recommendation that they be allowed to finish this wrestling season at another high school.

"Our investigation didn't find any disciplinary issues which merited a recommendation for expulsion," Athletic Director Joseph Pawlick said.

The administrative discipline will probably be the only punishment the students will receive in connection with the hazing incidents, which took place between Sept. 7 and Dec. 7, 1997. Police have said they will not file misdemeanor assault and battery charges against the students unless the victims ask them to.

Taking a "boys will be boys" attitude, one of the victim's mothers told The Times after the incident became public that she was not interested in filing charges.

The wrestling scandal, which has rocked this academically minded suburban campus, prompted the cancellation of the wrestling season last month.

Although few parents criticized the suspensions, many railed against the yearlong athletics ban for 11 of the wrestlers.

That ban could dramatically affect Westlake High's overall athletics program. Underclassman wrestlers affected by the ban will miss about half of next year's season. What's more, other wrestlers barred from sports participation are active in baseball and football and will miss those seasons as well.

"It's really unfair for the students who weren't even involved [in the hazing] to be excluded from any activities for a whole year," said coach Scott Little, who was not present when the hazing took place. "That's ridiculous."

Individual students may appeal the yearlong ban, parents said.

Folmar is a Times staff writer and Fernandez is a correspondent.

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