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Westlake High investigates brawl during team trip to Hawaii

Westlake High football players got into a dispute over a teasing incident at Pearl Harbor. One teen 'reported a sexual assault,' but prosecutors declined to file felony charges.

August 26, 2013|By Eric Sondheimer, Jill Cowan and Richard Winton
  • Westlake High School officials are investigating allegations that members of the football team were involved in hazing activities.
Westlake High School officials are investigating allegations that members… (Jill Cowan / Los Angeles…)

Westlake High School officials are continuing to investigate an altercation among its football players during a team trip to Hawaii that resulted in allegations of sexual assault and the arrest of one student.

More than 150 football players at the Westlake Village school raised funds for a nearly weeklong trip to Honolulu for their first varsity, junior varsity and freshman games of the season. The alleged incident occurred Wednesday night after six or seven varsity players went to a Waikiki hotel room to confront freshman players who had teased a varsity player during a trip to Pearl Harbor, district and police officials said.

The gathering "quickly escalated into pushing and shoving" with a dozen players involved, Conejo Valley Supt. Jeffrey Baarstad said. Coaches separated the players and took their statements in different rooms.

"The players described arguments, pushing and shoving and some punches thrown before other players in the room started trying to separate kids and cool things down," Baarstad wrote in an email to The Times.

Five varsity players were suspended for the Friday game in Hawaii, Baarstad said. Three were released to their parents and two others were confined to their rooms because their parents were not on the trip. Parents were advised to contact police if they believed an assault occurred, he said.

On Friday, Honolulu police arrested a 17-year-old male after a 15-year-old male "reported a sexual assault by the suspect," Honolulu police spokeswoman Teresa Bell said. Prosecutors declined to file felony charges and the teenager was released. Bell declined to provide additional details.

"None of the kids said anything occurred that resembled a sexual assault," Baarstad said.

The district's investigation into the incident is ongoing and school officials will determine whether any players should be suspended from school or from additional games.

Though school doesn't start until Wednesday, the allegations were already a hot topic among parents and students who were on campus Monday for registration. Girls giggled and waved at news cameras parked in front of the school; others spoke in hushed tones about what happened in Hawaii.

"Rumors are flying," one mother said.

Anna Arnaout, whose son played football at Westlake for four years, said her family was "very supportive of the football program." She praised coaches and described the team as the "most-behaved" in the district.

"There's no bullying and there has never been any bullying," she said. "This is a bunch of nothing."

Several students acknowledged that although football was a popular program at Westlake — and one of the top football programs in Ventura County — school officials have encouraged athletes and other students involved in extracurricular activities to set an example for others.

"Football here is like the thing," said Madison Hague-Rogers, a junior. "But they always tell us to be super respectful. We're supposed to be like leaders of the school."

Times staff writer Kate Mather contributed to this report.

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