ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) – The father of a cheerleader at Desert Hills High School involved in a recent hazing incident is now speaking out after the Washington County School District said he’s engaged in a pattern of intimidation and threats with school officials and parents of teammates for weeks.
Steve Dunham, director of communications for WCSC, said the father withheld and then released a full video of the hazing as possible retaliation.
“We have an individual who is maintaining, copying, and distributing these videos that contain a semi-nude juvenile female to our community,” Dunham said. “The threat as we have recorded is, ‘You have no idea what I’m capable of.’”
ABC4’s Katie Karalis sat down with the Travis Christiansen, the lawyer representing the father. Christiansen confirmed the father’s daughter had been kicked off the cheerleading team and suspended indefinitely after being caught drinking.
“Had she been suspended for the incident itself, for the bullying, for the hazing, they would be completely behind that suspension,” Christiansen said. “She is being dealt with pretty severely by her parents.”
After the father learned of videos of the hazing recorded on his daughter’s cell phone, he said he felt her punishment over drinking was “petty” in comparison, his lawyer added.
“He went to the school and said, ‘Either you level up the scales of justice here, or I will help you level them,'” said Christiansen. “I don’t think there was ever a threat of physical harm, lawsuits, or ‘I’m going to come after you,’ but he wanted to make sure that the police, the district, and the superintendent, knew what happened.”
The attorney said the father didn’t believe school administrators wanted to fully investigate the hazing, so he sent the district the full video of what happened, knowing he and his daughter would be implicated.
“You guys seem to have swept it under the rug, and you don’t seem to care about the seriousness of this,” Christensen said. “Our goal is to make it clear that this kind of bullying is not acceptable behavior.”
Dunham said district officials didn’t know there was a full video out there until the father sent it to them on Sept. 5.
“There’s no tolerance for that type of behavior in our organizations, in our schools, in our clubs,” Dunham said. “We didn’t know there was a full video, and we thought we really needed to re-address this hazing incident.”
ABC4 News spoke with three sources who have seen the video of what happened and want to stay anonymous. These sources say that older cheerleaders are seen partially clothed, squatting over younger teens and forcing them to do sit-ups so their faces collide with an older teammate’s bare buttocks.
The sources said the original video shown to administrators was highly edited and shot from a different angle, so it was unclear what exactly was taking place.
“We are standing behind our original statement, and we’re looking forward to the conclusion of our investigation on this matter,” he added.
St. George police are still investigating the incident.
The Board of Education for Washington County School District released the following statement Wednesday about the situation:
“We are saddened by the recent incident of hazing. Please let there be no question that we will uphold and reinforce a zero tolerance of hazing in any of our schools.
We are concerned about the culture at our schools. It is apparent that there has been a desensitizing of parents and students over the years that has led to an acceptance of these types of behaviors. Let us be very clear…initiation proceedings of this nature are not acceptable and need to stop immediately. We are inviting our parents to take a stand with us and say, “No More!”
We are unanimous in the hope that when students and parents know of these activities, they come forward and we will support them. We have an obligation to educate students, faculty and parents in order to create a culture of zero tolerance of hazing in any form.”WASHINGTON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
This is a developing story. School officials are urging students and parents with any information regarding the investigation to come forward.