Montgomery superintendent defends suspensions for hazing incident

The Montgomery County schools superintendent defended the discipline handed out to six seventh-grade students charged with assaulting two sixth-graders last week.

Some critics have said the McNabb Middle School basketball players charged in the assaults should have received more than a suspension from three games.

Superintendent Dan Freeman said, "Our role is to take corrective action that is fair and reasonable and not overreact."

On Nov. 11 in a locker room, "the horseplay got too rough," Freeman said. The seventh-graders were grabbing sixth-graders "and trying to take a Gatorade bottle — everybody was fully clothed — and ram it up their rear," he said.

The younger students had some bruises and scratches, and the fracas stopped when a coach entered the locker room, Freeman said. "Nobody called out or hollered to the coaches who were right outside the door."

The seventh-graders served three-game suspensions, "which turned out to be one weekend because of a tournament going on," Freeman said. A practice scheduled for the day after the incident was canceled as school officials questioned the students involved.

One parent told a Lexington TV station her son was traumatized. Some parents said the behavior merited stronger punishment.

"Well, a lot of them really don't know what's going on," Freeman said. "The parents are passing rumors around about bottles being inserted into rectums, and none of that really happened. Our role is to sort what did happen, and that's why we talked to all the young people involved quickly and independently. They all had consistent stories about what happened."

Freeman said the school administration will consider any additional information. "If we get new information, we would do something else. But there was very consistent information on what happened and who was doing it."

From now on, at least one coach will be in the locker room when students are there, Freeman said, "so there's no harassment going on."