TAMAQUA, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Eyewitness News has an update about a lawsuit that’s been filed against the Tamaqua Area School District, that we first reported Monday night.
What was described as a hazing incident by the school, is now being described as sexual assault by the victims.
Eyewitness News has learned more information about charges that were filed against an 18-year-old student.
The fathers of two Tamaqua Area High School students filed a lawsuit against the school district, accusing members of the administration of covering up a reported assault.
In a lawsuit filed Monday, two fathers claim their sons were beaten and sexually assaulted by older members of the football team in the football house owned by the district. and the district covered it up.
“We’ve never seen before, school officials speaking directly to the press confirming that no sexual assault happened before a complete and impartial investigation,” said Tara Giarratano, Esq., attorney for plaintiffs.
According to the lawsuit, after practice on November 4, the victims were ambushed by upperclassmen on the team, who held them down, repeatedly punched them in the face, and tried to forcibly penetrate them with a banana.
After the first victim told his father, the assault was immediately reported to school officials and Tamaqua police. The lawsuit claims in the days following the initial report, members of the administration excluded victims from attending or providing testimony at the disciplinary hearings.
Students accused of assaulting victim 1 remained in the same classes as the victim. Both victims and their fathers were barred from attending a special school board meeting about the incident by the superintendent, who then accused one of the victims of lying. At the time, school officials publicly denied the sexual assault.
The district ultimately expelled three students involved in the incident. 4 months later, on March 28, Tamaqua police charged 18-year-old Zach McGlinchey with multiple counts of assault and harassment-physical contact.
In the affidavit, McGlinchey is accused of punching the victim in the face and “forcefully pushing a banana against his behind.”
District Attorney Mike O’Pake says police interviewed at least 20 people.
“We didn’t want to rush to judgment, we wanted to make sure we had all the facts from everyone involved or potentially involved in the incident before charges got filed,” explained D.A. Mike O’Pake, Schuylkill County.
The lawsuit alleges a tradition of sexual assault between members of the football team, and of cover-ups by school officials. It says an older brother of one of the victims was assaulted in a similar fashion with a broomstick.
Following an executive session at the school board meeting Tuesday, Board President Larry Wittig said he could not comment on the lawsuit and he had not seen the police report.
“We did not shortcut it we did not postpone it, we had respect for the perpetrators, we had respect for the victims,” said Larry Wittig, School Board President.
The lawsuit accuses district officials of 14 counts of Title IX violations, including negligence, equal protection, and retaliation following a report of sexual assault.
Attorneys representing the fathers say they did their own investigation, which leads them to believe there are several more victims going back years.
Wittig says he stands by what he said in November.
Just one day after a federal lawsuit was filed against the Tamaqua Area School District, information is coming to light about charges filed last month against an 18-year-old student who is accused of taking part in an assault at the school’s athletic fieldhouse.
On Monday, a lawsuit was filed against the Tamaqua Area School District, accusing members of the administration of covering up a reported assault. Eyewitness News has now learned more details regarding the alleged assault.
As stated in the affidavit, in November, officers started an investigation into the report of an assault at the Tamaqua Area High School football house.
According to court documents, the victim stated to officers that several of his teammates from the football team assaulted him while in the football house.
Investigators say the victim informed them he was struck in the face with a closed fist by 18-year-old Zachary McGlinchey.
In the affidavit, the victim also accused McGlinchey of “forcefully pushing a banana against his anus”.
The lawsuit says the two victims were beaten and sexually assaulted by members of the football team.
In November, Eyewitness News asked the Tamaqua School Board if any students had been physically harmed in the “hazing” incident. They said no.
The District Attorney of Schuylkill County stated to Eyewitness News regarding the incident:
“Tamaqua police wanted to be thorough and complete in their investigation. We worked with them for that reason to make sure it would be thorough and complete.
We didn’t want to rush to judgment we wanted to make sure we had all the facts from everyone involved or potentially involved before charges were filed.”D.A. Michael O’Pake, Schuylkill County
McGlinchey was charged on March 28, his preliminary hearing is set for May 3. McGlinchey is facing 2 counts of simple assault and 3 counts of harassment – physical contact.