Seven Pojoaque Valley High School football players were allowed to participate in their homecoming game Friday against Thoreau after the school district temporarily halted disciplinary actions against them amid a Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office investigation into allegations of hazing.

A heavily redacted incident report released Friday afternoon by the sheriff’s office said an anonymous person reported to the school that seniors had been pulling down freshman teammates’ pants and touching their “private parts.”

Several freshmen also told investigators the senior players had been hazing them during football practice, the report said.

Parents of four of the players had filed requests for temporary restraining orders in state District Court this week to block 10-day suspensions of the students, and one player filed for an order on his own behalf. Court hearings on the matter were scheduled Friday for three of the plaintiffs.

Pojoaque Valley School District Superintendent Sondra Adams decided to let all seven seniors play in the Friday night game, however, after a state district judge granted the guardians of two players a temporary restraining order earlier in the day. The order prevented the district from continuing to enforce the suspensions, which started Tuesday.

Judge Matthew Wilson said in his ruling the two students were entitled to a hearing on the hazing complaints and suspensions, which they did not receive, and Pojoaque Valley School District did not indicate it was planning to hold a hearing.

Wilson set a court hearing at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday to determine the status of his order.

Roxie De Santiago, an attorney for the school district, informed state District Judge Bryan Biedscheid of the superintendent’s decision to halt all of the suspensions during a court hearing Friday for a third Pojoaque football player seeking a restraining order.

“It would not be fair to treat one student differently than the others when they are all in the same boat,” De Santiago said.

In a statement Friday afternoon, the district expressed disappointment in Wilson’s ruling, saying it could have long-term effects in how schools mete out short-term discipline.

“We are also concerned that the ruling extends due process rights for temporary student suspensions, beyond what is set out in the law, and so seriously undermines and limits the legal tools available to schools to enforce discipline and protect students,” the statement said.

Adams said the district only allows for appeals of suspensions longer than 10 days. But, she added, it will abide by the court’s ruling, and she planned to ensure homecoming events for the weekend would commence without any trouble.

“We have a football game to put on [Friday night], we have a dance tomorrow and we have a lot of kids who are looking forward to that,” Adams said.

Wilson’s ruling was in favor of parent Christina Olivas and grandparent Elaine Esquibel. Wilson also ruled the players accused of hazing will have to dress in a locker room separate from the rest of the team, some of whom are involved in the investigation.

The sheriff’s office report said the school district learned of the allegation through its anti-bullying reporting app.

Adams said the district has since received multiple reports through the app related to the investigation.

According to the sheriff’s office report, District Safety Director Gary Johnson and Pojoaque Middle School Discipline Officer Theodore Lovato interviewed several freshmen, who identified the seven seniors as the instigators.

Johnson told investigators that rumors indicated some of the football players knew who reported the allegations and could be planning retaliation. No players would be left unsupervised on the field or in the locker room, he said, according to the report.

The report states the investigation is ongoing and will be forwarded to the Criminal Investigations Division of the sheriff’s office.

Five seniors who testified during the court hearing Friday said they did not take part in any hazing, nor did they witness any hazing during football-related activities.

Pojoaque assistant coach Juan Martinez also testified on behalf of the plaintiffs, saying he was not aware of any hazing, especially in the locker room. He said he monitors the room before and after every practice and game, in accordance with district policy.

Jerry Archuleta, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said keeping the players from participating in the homecoming game, forcing them to miss school days and preventing them from participating in homecoming festivities would cause them harm.

Many of his clients are already struggling to communicate with teachers to collect assignments they need to complete, the attorney said.

Adams said they would have ample opportunity to make up any missed classwork.

Archuleta said the players have good reputations among their peers and at the school and that the stain of the hazing allegations could impact their ability to obtain athletic or academic scholarships.

“This will affect their reputation,” Archuleta said. “This will negate any of the hard work they put into to get to the level they are at.”

(10) comments

Sabine Strohem

Oh the things we teach our boys. Sigh.

Andrew Lucero

This is outrageous! when I first commented on this story, the details had not come out yet. I just saw some them on KOB this morning. Because the report is so heavily redacted, these incidents are probably far worse than we know. This was NOT “Hazing”. These are cases of sexual assault. In my opinion, there is a big difference between the two. Calling this “Hazing” only minimizes the severity of these incidents. These are serious criminal offences for God’s sake. Not only should have these players been immediately removed from the team and expelled from school, they also need to be criminally prosecuted. What kind of message are we sending to the victims? We don’t want to cause “harm” to their attackers and ruin their chances for scholarships. So, we are going to protect and coddle them long enough so they can play in the Homecoming game and then go to the dance? Oh, and to add insult to injury, the victims still have to practice and play with their victimizers. So much for protecting the victims. Sickening. Truly sickening.

Don CdeBaca

You got that right.

Don CdeBaca

Las Vegas experienced a similar problem several years ago with the Robertson football team. It was horrifying to see how many people condoned the boys' behavior as "initiation" when in reality it shows that these seniors are mere bullies and should be prosecuted as sexual predators. Obviously therevisn't any supervision in the locker room and coaches must be looking the other way while these hazing incidents happen. Jim Jordon of Ohio ???

Russell Scanlon

This happened to a lot of kids when I was in high school in the 1970’s. And this is why I still dislike football and all organized sports. If these young athletes don’t face any consequences for their actions, then they haven’t learned anything and they have just reached the peak of their lives.

Emilia Martinez

[thumbup][thumbup]

Stefanie Beninato

I agree with the school district that this hampers its ability to impose short term discipline--imagine having to go to court for every school infraction that leads to a suspension. And from what one poster said, these students seem to think they are above the rules and it seems their parents/grandparents seem to foster that attitude. Of course, suspensions "harm" a student--duh--it is a punishment but think about the harm these seniors caused to freshmen if the accusations are true.

Oliver Gonzales

Despite the story, these boys do not have great reputations. They are rude, disrespectful to staff and other students. They think they rule the school. The dress code doesn't apply to them as they walk around in short shorts, masks not worn properly, sit on desktops, talk back to staff and try to order them and classmates around. I pray that the victims recei e the justice they deserve and when charges are filed that they are expelled so that the student body may be safe from these types of bullies.

As for the Coach stating he monitors the dressing room, his son is one of the players in trouble, why wouldn't he say he's doing his job?

Andrew Lucero

The only way to curb hazing is to make the consequences for it so sever that the kids won’t be willing to risk it… You drive home the mantra that there is ZERO tolerance. You win as a team and you lose as a team. If hazing occurs on that team, they will forfeit their entire season… And those who participated the hazing will be banned from playing ALL high school sports for the entirety of their high school years. Yes, it’s harsh, but it forces the kids to hold each other accountable for their actions.

John Martinez

I hope you as the parents of the defendants are advocates for your kiddos but are actually advocates of the victims. If in fact your children are guilty of this "hazing" you need to hold these children accountable and teach them that this is wrong and should not be tolerated.

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