Pojoaque HS students under investigation for alleged sexual hazing
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After facing accusations of sexual hazing, a handful of football players were able to go back to Pojoaque High School and were allowed to play in Friday’s homecoming game.
The students were originally suspended earlier this week after the initial investigation but now all of the suspended students were allowed to go back to school thanks to a judge’s ruling. According to the Santa Fe County sheriff’s report, these allegations were brought to the school’s attention on Monday through an anonymous reporting app.
Because this is an ongoing investigation involving minors, names and statements from witnesses have been redacted from the report.
According to the sheriff’s office, the school received this report of bullying, "The seniors on the football team is hazing the freshman. They are holding down the freshman and pulling down their pants and touching their private parts."
Named in the report, were at least nine students and the school disciplinary officers Gary Johnson and Thedore Lovato. They told deputies they interviewed members of the football team and then at least six players were suspended because of the allegations.
After the suspension five of those six parents sued the school saying they had no proof their students participated in the hazing.
“When you make allegations of horrific acts and saying horrific things are happening ok the school has a duty to investigate and has the duty to maintain the safety of all the students but that doesn’t come at the cost of depriving my clients of their constitutional right or labeling my clients as offenders when nothing has been proven against them," the families’ attorney Jerry Archuleta said.
That argument stood up in court Friday, and the six students were reinstated and were allowed to go back to school and play in the homecoming game. But some people say this ruling is putting football above student safety.
“It’s not putting the game above safety, it’s putting the constitution above allegations,” Archuleta said.
KOB 4 also reached out to the school district for comment on today’s ruling and the superintendent sent us this statement saying in part:
"Pojoaque Valley School district vehemently disagrees with today’s ruling. PVSD believes it has a duty to ensure the safety of all students and when necessary, as was the case here, must take immediate action to fulfill that duty. Unfortunately, the court has tied the hands of the district and has placed unnecessary restrictions on the actions it can take to protect the students of PVSD,” Superintendent Sondra Adams said.
Now, while six of the students were suspended only five families joined the lawsuit against the school, two of those students were seen and court Friday, where the judge ruled in their favor. So, in order to stay fair, the district has reinstated all six students.
While all six had the opportunity to play tonight there is no way for us to know if they did, because they are minors, their identities were not released. But it was a full crowd at tonight’s homecoming game. Students and parents filled the stands as the football team took to the field.
KOB 4 asked some parents watching the game what their opinions were on the hazing ruling. While most said no comment, others say they agree with the ruling, but some parents say knowing those students could be on the field makes them uncomfortable.
"Well I think the students should have played either way because this is their only time they get to enjoy sports and activity like this but you know I think the parents like I said should be held accountable to some extent," uncle of Pojoaque student Orsino Wagner said.
"I think they shouldn’t have been able to play tonight because if it was anybody else from a parents’ point of view that is a form of assault and they would need to suffer those consequences legally as well," parent of Pojoaque student Amanda Arrietta said.
While these students were allowed to return to school and play in the game, some safety measures were put in place. The school says the six students being accused of hazing had to change in a separate locker room from the rest of the team and were under constant supervision.
Friday’s ruling is not the end of this case, there will be another hearing next Wednesday.
To read the full news release from the Pojoaque Valley School District, click here.