School district holds community meeting to address hazing situation

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By Michael Li, Managing Editor

To address questions and concerns surrounding the recent hazing incident at Conestoga, the Tredyffrin/Easttown school board called a special community meeting on Monday, March 28. The meeting provided an opportunity for community members to speak their minds and for the school board to clarify and discuss its current position on the issue. The meeting, held in the Conestoga auditorium before a regularly scheduled school board meeting, attracted over 150 students, parents and district residents. Numerous media sources also showed up to follow the most recent developments in the community’s response to the hazing scandal that has made local and national news.

hazing meeting

Before allowing those in attendance to come up to the podium and speak, the panel, consisting of Doug Carlson (school board president), Dr. Richard Gusick (superintendent), Dr. Amy Meisinger (principal) and Ken Roos (district solicitor), discussed the school investigation. The panel made it clear that while the police investigation had looked into whether or not a law was broken, the school looked into whether its code of conduct was broken.  

Afterward, community members were invited to come up to the podium and voice their questions, concerns and thoughts about the school district’s response to the incident and the incident itself. Twenty-seven people eventually came up to speak, including current and former ‘Stoga students, residents and many parents. 

Many of those who went up to speak expressed disappointment in the media’s presentation of football head coach John Vogan, who resigned from his coaching duties earlier this month. Fellow coaches, former students and current players all vouched for Vogan’s upstanding character, which some felt the media and the administration had overlooked. One resident said he was disappointed that the district didn’t hold the community meeting before the football staff was fired, a comment that was met with applause. The school board did say that the coaches can be reconsidered for positions at ‘Stoga after one year.

There was also some anger directed toward the administration, both for not doing enough to stop the hazing and the alleged incident, or for not doing enough for the football players.

Some people found it hard to believe that the administration had heard nothing about the hazing that had been going on for years. Several residents implored the school district to more actively address the issue and create stronger policies against hazing.

Two juniors on the football team went up to the podium and described their feelings of isolation following the charges. One junior noted that although he spoke closely with his football coaches on a regular basis, with the dismissal of the entire coaching staff he now felt he had no one to go to. The panel replied that the school would try to do more for those involved. 

Many people expressed other concerns, especially over the lack of supervision in the locker rooms. While the coaches were not forced to be in the locker room as the football players changed, the school board said that there was an expectation that the coaches would supervise the players. There were a few speakers who were wary of what they saw to be trial by media, and noted the 2006 Duke lacrosse case, in which media bias and public opinion condemned the accused before, ultimately, charges were dropped.  

One parent called the district’s approach to the situation “cerebral,” and wondered if an entirely new football staff could provide the emotional guidance the football players would need. Another wondered if hazing was not limited to the football team. Yet another asked what Conestoga might look like without a football team. 

The meeting, which started at 6 p.m., lasted all the way up until the school board meeting began at 7:30 p.m.. The conclusions and proposals of the school investigation can be found here.

Michael Li can be reached at [email protected].