NEW MADISON – It was standing room only at Monday night’s Tri-Village School Board of Education meeting. Parents and concerned citizens filled the small room and overflowed outside waiting to hear what actions were being taken with the allegations of hazing against the high school boys basketball team.
During the meeting, the board ignored a request during the “public participation” portion to discuss the allegations.
On Monday, Darke County Sheriff Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker released information regarding the alleged hazing stating that the agency was conducting an investigation.
“Preliminary information supports that misdemeanor hazing incidents have occurred among students on the Tri-Village High School Basketball team. The evidence at this time, indicates that school staff responded to the incidents as soon as it was reported to them. There is no evidence or information to substantiate allegations of sexual assault or felony conduct,” the release read.
Although hazing comes in many forms, most commonly it is defined as any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate. Hazing activities are generally considered to be: physically abusive, hazardous, and or/sexually violating.
Social media has been lit on fire with allegations of more than just hazing clouding the circumstances surrounding the allegations. A couple of frustrated and concerned parents reached out to The Daily Advocate to tell their side of the story. Their names will remain anonymous to protect the minor victims, as per policy of the newspaper. Some parents could not comment due to possible future litigation.
One parent, questioned the ethics and conflict of interest as to why Josh Sagester, Superintendent of the Tri-Village School District and also Head Coach of the Boys Basketball Team was permitted to investigate the allegations and discipline the players.
“If the Sheriff’s department is investigating the matter, why does Sagester, the superintendent and the basketball coach, continue to conduct interviews with students and parents? Sagester continues to investigate the matter. If you are handling this as a school, that is one thing. The Darke County Sheriff’s office took that from you, so why are you conducting interviews?,” the parent asked.
According to the parent, during both executive sessions during the board meeting, Sagester was discussing the matter with parents and/or students. After the executive sessions, the board announced that comments were not allowed on the matter. One board member said,”you can all go home.”
“The reason the parents attended the meeting, was to some light shed on our boys. The information on Facebook and in the news, is inaccurate. This has been happening in our schools for quite awhile, not just this year. One of the boys who did it, said he did it, because it was being done to him last year. Holding someone down and putting their genitals on someone’s face, is sexual assault, not hazing. Sagester is the coach and this happened on his watch,” claimed the parent.
“The press release says that the school responded. No, they did not. There was no response. Sagester took the kids in for a team meeting. They are trying to intimidate the boys and the parents, so they won’t say anything. One parent said her boy’s punishment was over because the parents backed down. They were concerned for his safety. That should have been the main topic of the meeting, and it wasn’t. The board has Sagester telling them it was hazing. The board probably doesn’t even know what is going on because they are getting that information from Sagester,” the parent said.
When The Daily Advocate reached out to Sagester, he declined to comment saying, “Due to student privacy and confidentiality, the board and administration cannot speak on this matter.”
Another parent, Brandy, is also frustrated. She attended Monday’s meeting in hopes receiving information.
“You have a room full of people here for a reason, and they won’t talk,” she said. “Coming here tonight and seeing everyone one run scared, it is very frustrating because nobody got any answers. I want the truth. I want justice for our victims. Man-up. This is for the kids, not for your reputation. We are taught from day one about improper touch. We teach to tell someone if this is happening. When a child tells you something is going on, something is going on,” she said.
Board President Tim Bevins was contacted for comment. At press time, he had not responded.
According to the Darke County Sheriff’s Office press release Monday, Darke County Prosecutor R. Kelly Ormsby has been briefed on the evidence in the case to date. He will review the case when the investigative report is completed and discuss the circumstances with any victims and their family before deciding whether charges may be filed.
The Tri-Village Boys Basketball Team has won the Cross County Conference four years in a row. They have played in the state’s final four games two of the last three seasons and won the Division IV State Championship in 2015.