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September 19. 2013 9:12PM

Hanover forfeits homecoming game over 'egregious' skits

Hanover High School is forfeiting its homecoming game Friday night in response to "inappropriate" conduct by some players during a post-practice gathering last month.

Administrators announced the forfeit in a letter to parents this week, saying skits performed during the players-only celebration over the end of two-a-day practices violated the student code of conduct by objectifying women. The letter said many of the skits were sexually themed and "egregiously inappropriate."

Although that description could cover a wide range, district superintendent Frank Bass refused to elaborate Thursday on the players' conduct Aug. 24 when members of the team gathered at a home without coaches. Bass said administrators considered it serious enough to warrant a one-game suspension.

"It did not reach the level of hazing but certainly was something that we're not very proud of," Bass said.

Although not every player on the roster participated, enough members of the team were facing the sanction that Hanover could not field enough for a team tonight against the Kearsarge Cougars, leading to the forfeiture.

"Obviously, you don't want to punish students who had nothing to do with it," Bass said.

Athletic director Mike Jackson said a student went to a counselor with a complaint last week. Jackson also would not discuss specifics, referring questions to Bass, but said it was made clear to the players how they went wrong and why there will be no football game tonight.

"Of course they were not happy. They were very disappointed," Jackson said. "Obviously that was not the full content of the message we had for the players, but I think that will stick in their minds."

Bass said Principal Justin Campbell met with the student body by class for talks on what happened and how administrators came to the decision to discipline the players.

"He was swift and judicious in handling and turned into a learning opportunity for the entire school," Bass said. "Kids do make mistakes. We all make mistakes. Hopefully, we can all find a way to minimize the opportunity for poor decision making."

Although administrators did not consider the skits, performed by freshmen as directed by upperclassmen, to be hazing, state law requires schools and other organizations to report any possible instances to police. Jackson said the school followed procedure and reported the investigation to Hanover police

While the game was canceled, Jackson said homecoming festivities would be rescheduled for later in the season.

dalden@unionleader.com


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