Latest News

$3M claim hits Gustine schools

A 14-year-old boy who said he was sexually assaulted by older football players in a hazing incident suffered bad grades, sought therapy, swore off team sports and moved out of state, according to a $3 million complaint against the Gustine Unified School District.

School board members on Jan. 17 denied that claim and another filed by a second victim. Such claims are considered precursors to lawsuits.

Also, high school administrators are looking for a new head football coach, district Superintendent Joseph Wilimek said Monday. Carl Scudder, who was placed on leave after the incident was reported last summer, won't coach again in Gustine schools, and his replacement was not asked back, Wilimek said.

Madera County District Attorney Ernest LiCalsi on Monday could not provide an update on battery and false imprisonment charges brought in September against four former Gustine High School football players.

The claims stem from a football training camp attended July 13-15 by Gustine and Liberty high schools on Liberty's campus. Liberty is part of Golden Valley Unified School District; its administrators could not be reached Monday.

According to allegations in the $3 million claim, groups of upperclassmen at Gustine and Liberty:

Sexually assaulted the freshman, whose name was withheld and who now is 15, with a battery-operated air pump while at least four players restrained his arms and legs.

Inflicted a head injury on the boy during a coach-promoted pillow fight after loading pillowcases with cleats, helmets and other heavy objects.

Slapped younger football players with a used condom. Threats of repeating the act prompted the alleged victims to sleep in shifts for protection.

School and district officials knew that offending players were abusing substances and had been expelled from other districts because of "threats, assaults and violence," the claim states.

Gustine officials "took no reasonable actions to stop the hazing" and "failed to protect" the victims, according to the complaint.

Scudder has said the boys were alone for a short time while he met with another coach. He broke up nonsexual nonsense upon returning and confiscated an air pump, he told The Fresno Bee in August.

Scudder was removed from team duties and reassigned to teach at Gustine Middle School. The varsity team went on to win one game and lose nine, identical to its record the previous season.

"I'm not letting (Scudder) back," Wilimek said Monday. "He is not coaching in this district."

Adam Cano, the interim head coach, was not rehired for next year, Wilimek said.

The claim states that coaches at the training camp were aware of hazing but "failed to intervene and take protective measures to send a clear antihazing message." It was filed by Merced attorney Donald Proietti.

Older players tried to sexually assault the subject of the second claim, but did not succeed, Palm Desert attorney Donald Chavous said. His client seeks more than $10,000 in damages.

"Gustine Unified School District was negligent in its failure to properly train and supervise coach Scudder," Chavous' claim reads. Also, the district violated "interscholastic rules" by failing to obtain "appropriate permission slips or emergency contact information for students," the claim reads.

Wilimek said the claims were forwarded to the school's liability administrator, Knak & Co. of Redding, for negotiation with the boys' attorneys.

"My plan is to speak with them and see if we can resolve it," Chavous said. "Ideally, that's what will happen. It's in everyone's interest not to have a court battle. If not, I'll move forward with litigation."

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at 578-2390 or gstapley@modbee.com.

  Comments