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Middletown School District cancels high school football season after another video of a hazing incident comes to light

Superintendent Dr. Chelton Hunter said a second video of another, more widespread incident involving players has surfaced, prompting the cancelation of the season.

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Editor's note: The above video is from Aug. 22.

The Middletown Area School District has cancelled its upcoming high school football season after a second video of the suspected hazing incident involving members of the team earlier this month surfaced, showing that the number of students involved was more widespread than previously known, Superintendent Dr. Chelton Hunter said in a letter to parents and guardians Wednesday.

"We have obtained an additional videotape showing the Middletown Area high school football hazing incident which took place inside our heat acclimation room," Hunter's letter said. "Unfortunately, this video demonstrates that this hazing was much more widespread, and involved many more students, than we had previously known."

As a result, Hunter said, school administration decided to cancel the entire 2022 football season.

"I know this decision will be met with many different opinions and emotions and will impact many students and families," Hunter said.

The school district shared the new video with law enforcement officials, Hunter said. The school district is continuing its own investigation of the incident.

Investigators with the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office are already looking into the incident, which was reported to the school district on August 12,. Lower Swatara Township Police requested that the DA's office take over the investigation after being notified by the school district earlier this month.

Any students found to have participated in the incident will be disciplined according to the school district's policies on hazing and code of conduct, Hunter said Wednesday.

"Any staff members who have ignored this kind of hazing will also face disciplinary action," Hunter added.

"This kind of hazing that occurred in our facilities with this team is reprehensible," Hunter said. "It simply cannot and will not be tolerated."

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.

The football team had a scrimmage last Saturday against Northern York High School. It would prove to be the last time the team took the field this year.

Hunter said the school district will work to address the culture of the team and educate students about hazing. 

The school district will work to find alternative opportunities to perform for the high school's cheerleading squad and marching band, both of which will be affected by the cancellation of the football season, Hunter said.

The school's Homecoming event, which typically occurs in conjunction with a football game, will also be subject to alternative plans, according to Hunter.

Middletown's scheduled Week 1 opponent, Lower Dauphin, issued the following statement after learning Friday's game was off:

"Lower Dauphin was contacted by Middletown Area School District officials today regarding the cancellation of their football season.

Lower Dauphin was scheduled to play the Raiders on Friday night at Hersheypark Stadium. That game has been cancelled.

After unsuccessfully trying to find a last-minute opponent for Friday night, our team will seek an opponent for the end of the season.

We apologize to our students, parents and fans for this last-minute change to our schedule. Our thoughts are with Middletown as they navigate this difficult situation."

Hunter's full letter appears below.

Dear Parent/Guardian:

It is with great regret that I’m writing to share with you that we have obtained an additional videotape showing (the) Middletown Area High School Football hazing incident which took place inside our heat acclimation room. Unfortunately, this video demonstrates that this hazing was much more widespread, and involved many more students, than we had previously known.

In light of this, we have made the decision to cancel the 2022 football season. I know this decision will be met with many different opinions and emotions and will impact many students and families.

We have shared the new video with law enforcement officials and will continue to work to complete our own investigation. Any students found to have participated in this incident will be disciplined in accordance with our student code of conduct and hazing policy. Any staff members who were found to have ignored this kind of hazing will also face disciplinary action.

The kind of hazing that occurred in our facilities with this team is reprehensible. It simply cannot and will not be tolerated. We know we must work to address the culture of this team, educate our student body about hazing, and put programs in place to help us ensure that this kind of atmosphere is never allowed to exist in our school facilities.

Our administrative team and athletic director will work to find other opportunities this fall for our cheerleading team and marching band, since they will be impacted by this season cancellation. We will also work to make alternative plans for Homecoming, which is typically scheduled around a football game.

We’ll communicate additional information as we’re able to do so, and as we work through this investigation.

Again, I know this is difficult news. We’ll work to bring our school community together in a positive manner as we move forward into the new school year.

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