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Principal says school officials tried to thwart high school hazing

Girls describe choking, kicking at football game ritual

Two of the hazing victims speak on CNN Thursday morning.
Two of the hazing victims speak on CNN Thursday morning.

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start quoteI was strangled and choked, and I was kicked in the head repeatedly.end quote
-- Lauren, Glenbrook North High School junior
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CNN's Bill Hemmer talks to two students from an Illinois high school who say they were hurt in a hazing incident. (May 8)
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A touch football game between high school girls in Illinois escalated into a hazing incident that hurt some students. Affiliate WGN reports. (May 7)
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NORTHBROOK, Illinois (CNN) -- School administrators at a suburban Chicago school where an off-campus touch football hazing ritual turned violent made efforts to get the unsanctioned event canceled, the principal said Thursday.

Michael Riggle said administrators at Glenbrook North High School tried to find out where and when the game, which serves as an initiation into the senior class for the juniors, was going to be played.

Witnesses at Sunday's game said it never got under way and what began as some light hazing quickly escalated to violence, sending five junior girls to the hospital for treatment before their release.

Riggle said that the previous Friday, students "were not forthcoming" about what had become "a covert activity." In fact, details were kept so secret that many of the participants did not know until an hour before the game took place what the time and location would be.

The time and location of the game changes from year to year, though this was the first time that it had such a violent outcome, Riggle said.

Two of the junior girls who had to be treated at the hospital said they had no idea they would be subject to a violent attack.

"I was strangled and choked, and I was kicked in the head repeatedly," Lauren said.

Another, junior class member, Marina, said she was "repeatedly kicked and punched," adding "they kicked my tailbone to the point that it fractured."

The girls, identified only by first names, spoke to CNN about Sunday's incident.

"This has been a tradition in our school, to play football, not [to] be beaten up and put into the hospital," Marina said.

The girls said they had been told they would not be physically harmed but might have to endure light hazing such as ketchup, mustard and whipped cream being smeared in their hair.

Three other girls were treated and released from Glenbrook Hospital, spokeswoman Karen Ganz told CNN Wednesday. Ganz declined to describe their injuries because the patients are minors.

Attorney compares attack to lynching

Police said criminal charges against the perpetrators could be filed Thursday or Friday. Authorities said an amateur videotape shot at the scene indicates premeditation because some of the attackers had baseball bats.

"We believe there was some premeditation on the part of some of the attackers to go after some specific victims," Rollin Soskin, an attorney representing Lauren and Marina, said appearing with them on CNN's "American Morning."

Students huddled together on the ground during the attack.
Students huddled together on the ground during the attack.

"Nobody brings a baseball bat or a paint pellet gun to a powder puff football game."

"This was a vicious attack," Soskin said. "This was a lynching."

The tape shows several students huddled together on the ground while others threw objects at them, including large plastic buckets.

One girl walks behind the seated girls and slaps them on the back of the head. Another girl holds up what appears to be an intestine. At least one girl reported having a pig's intestine wrapped around her neck.

Witnesses also reported that urine, feces and fish guts were thrown and others said they had been forced to eat mud.

"Basically it started out as a fun hazing like our initiation into our senior year," said a junior girl who had been injured. "About 10 minutes into it everything changed -- buckets were flying ... people were bleeding. Girls were unconscious."

Dozens of students had come to watch the event and some of them, including male bystanders, joined in.

Principal supports prosecution

Riggle said Wednesday the school supports criminal prosecution of the perpetrators.

"I feel that the behavior that went on was certainly extreme and I think that it does get into the point of criminal actions," Riggle told CNN. "The school is fully supportive of prosecution at this point."

In 1979, there were problems with powder puff or touch football games and the school discontinued the games, which had been used as fund-raisers, Riggle said. Since then, the matches have been organized by the students.

start quoteI think that it does get into the point of criminal actions.end quote
-- Michael Riggle, Glenbrook North principal

But Soskin did not absolve the school of responsibility, saying that although it was not a school-sanctioned event or on school property, school administrators certainly knew the game was going to take place.

The Cook County sheriff's department and the county's Forest Preserve District police are investigating the incident, which happened on Forest Preserve property near Northbrook.

Glenbrook North High School is in Northbrook, a suburb north of Chicago. Riggle agreed with a reporter's depiction of the school's students as being mainly "upper middle class," adding that some 85 percent go on to four-year colleges.

CNN Correspondent Whitney Casey contributed to this report.


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