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Families of 2 Middletown football players victimized in hazing incident retain Harrisburg law firm specializing in sexual abuse cases

Andreozzi & Foote said the families hope the school district "will be of the solution to sexualized hazing, rather than the problem."

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Editor's note: The above video is from Aug. 24.

The families of two of the boys affected by the hazing incident involving the Middletown Area High School football team have retained a Harrisburg law firm known for representing sexual assault victims.

Andreozzi & Foote confirmed to FOX43 that it is representing the families of two of the players who were victimized during the incident.

The Harrisburg-based firm describes itself as "focused on representing victims of crime and sexual abuse" on its website.

"We and our clients hope that the Middletown School District will learn and grow from this tragic experience, and be part of the solution to sexualized hazing, rather than the problem," the firm said in a statement to FOX43. "We expect to begin a dialogue with the District soon regarding this unfortunate situation. We trust the District shares our and our clients’ interest in ensuring the safety of students, and in doing the right thing by the boys affected."

On Wednesday, Middletown Area School District Superintendent Dr. Chelton Hunter announced that the district was canceling Middletown's 2022 football season, which was set to begin Friday night.

Hunter said a second video of the incident, which recently surfaced, showed that the hazing involved more members of the team than previously known.

The school district was first informed of the suspected hazing by members of the football team on August 12, after a video showing an incident was circulated on social media. 

The video appeared to show a group of students holding down two of their teammates. The players allegedly used a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment to poke the buttock region of the students on the ground.  

The school district launched its own investigation and contacted law enforcement.

Hunter released a statement 10 days after the incident was reported, calling the initial video "difficult to watch" and the conduct depicted "a completely unacceptable, offensive, and highly inappropriate act."  

The players identified in the first video were removed from the football team pending the outcome of the investigation and the completion of the discipline process, according to Hunter.  

On Aug. 15, head football coach Scott Acri resigned, and assistant coach Rod Brodish took over as acting head coach.

On Wednesday, Hunter said a second video of the incident showed the number of players involved was larger than previously known, causing the district's decision to cancel the season.

The decision prompted an outcry from some parents in the school district, who spoke out at one of multiple meetings Wednesday night.

"They have children now that are crying, they are upset. You have these parents that are now upset because they have to discuss to their children 'Hey, your season is done [and] there is nothing we can do,'" said Zu Taalib, a Middletown parent. 

Taalib also called on the administrators to do better.

"They are penalizing the whole organization instead of taking the time to figure out who did what," he said. "They are penalizing all of the children, [including the] football [team], cheerleading, [the] band."

Steelton-Highspire, a neighboring school district, said on Wednesday that members of Middltown's marching band and cheerleading squad were welcome to join the Rollers and perform at Steel-High's home football games in the fall. 

Bamm Appleby, who was slated to be Middletown's starting quarterback this season, announced Wednesday he has already made the move to Steelton and was transferring.

But the PIAA, which oversees high school sports across the commonwealth, said that any transfers from Middletown to another school for athletic reasons might not be permitted.

“It’s not an easy done deal," said Melissa Mertz, associate executive director of the PIAA. "Any time there’s a transfer, we have certain provisions that provide for presumptive eligibility.”

The alleged hazing incident remains under investigation, both by the Middletown Area School District and by the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office. 

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