GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – A Grand Rapids Police Department report reveals new details into the investigation of inappropriate behavior on the West Catholic High School boys cross country team.
The 16-page report outlines the interviews between police and the members of the team, as well as their parents. It shows varying degrees of difference from interview to interview as far as what was taking place in locker rooms and trips off school grounds.
While the report centers mostly around allegations of students poking each other between the butt cheeks as well as an incident in which one student was allegedly held down to be poked in the same manner, other allegations arise. From an incident in which one student urinated on another, to an allegation of a team member touching others with his penis, police looked into several accusations that in the end resulted in no criminal charges being filed.
One alleged victim’s mother told police that her son was being targeted by the other members of the team. Meeting with police on Dec. 15, 2009, the mother said her son “wants more than anything to be friends with the other players” and because of that, “he does not want them to get in to any trouble.”
It is statements such as that, said psychologist Randy Flood, that reveal a distinction between “normal locker room behavior” and “bullying.”
“There is a power differential,” Flood said. “There’s coercion and one person is experiencing fear, harm and damage — emotionally or physically.”
Behavior that would be considered “normal” to Flood would be between two parties with equal power and would be reciprocated by both parties. In some instances within the West Catholic boys cross country team, that was not the case.
Police questioned team members about an RV trip in 2009. One teen told police some team members were taking others into the back of the RV and simulating sex acts on them over their clothes, while others held them down. In one instance, one teen told police an alleged victim came out of the back room with a bloody nose and without his jeans. At that point, other team members tried to drag boy back into the room, but the alleged victim hit his head, so the others stopped.
Flood said the reports are disturbing for obvious reasons, but also because of the positive steps schools have taken since the 1990s to prevent such behavior.
“A case like this hopefully will increase the awareness and help students, teachers, coaches and athletic directors to do a better job at training,” Flood said. “Hopefully, boys and other students will see this is a serious matter.”
Despite the prosecutors’ decision not to file charges against anyone allegedly involved, cross country coach Dennis Scully did not have his contract renewed.
School officials are sticking to the cancellation of the upcoming competitive season. They’ve said from the beginning, despite the outcome of the criminal investigation, they wanted to send a very clear message that this type of behavior would not be tolerated.