WASHINGTON COUNTY (ABC4 News) – What began as an alleged hazing incident involving cheerleaders at Desert Hills High School is escalating, according to the Washington County School District.
ABC4’s Katie Karalis met with Steve Dunham, the district’s director of communications, who said a parent of one of the cheerleaders implicated in the incident has been threatening the school as well as other parents to prevent them from coming forward.
Dunham said the hazing incident allegedly took place in June, administrators received new video footage last Thursday that made them realize it was a much bigger concern than they thought.
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.
“There’s no tolerance for that type of behavior in our organizations, in our schools, in our clubs,” said Dunham. “We didn’t know there was a full video, and we thought we really needed to re-address this hazing incident.”
Those 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.
A senior cheerleader who was reportedly involved with the hazing was kicked off the team earlier last month after being caught drinking, according to ABC4 News’ sources.
Dunham told ABC4 News the father of that cheerleader withheld the video and has been threatening to keep releasing it 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.'”
St. George police said they’re investigating the incident, but so far no possible victims or witnesses have come forward.
“I hope it’s not out of fear or the worry of being retaliated against,” St. George police officer Tiffany Atkin said. “We’re investigating and we’re gonna pass it down to the Attorney’s Office and let them do what they do best, which is screening it for respective charges.”
“You have a culture that doesn’t come forward for fear and retribution, both students and parents,” added Dunham.
Washington County School District released the following statement 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.