Several Maine West students show support for accused coaches - KMSP-TV

Several Maine West students show support for accused coaches

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Earlier this week, FOX 32 News reported that the several students were added to a lawsuit against the Maine Township High School district claiming they were sexually assaulted by other students during hazing rituals. The suit also claims the coaches knew about it and encouraged the hazing.

Now, students are coming out in support of the two soccer coaches at the center of the controversy.

Just blocks away from campus, former students gathered to monitor their newly created Facebook page supporting both soccer coaches Michael DiVincenzo and Emilio Rodriguez Friday.

"Basically it's a support site where everybody can share their stories, photos, memories and basically why they think "Divo" doesn't have the character to have done the things he's accused for," explains former student Ashley Owens.

Five coaches in total have been removed from their coaching responsibilities pending the investigation and six students have been charged with misdemeanor battery and hazing.

The lawsuit claims that when Maine West's coaches ordered the team to do a "campus run," on an incoming varsity player, that was allegedly code for ordering a hazing ritual that resulted in one case as battery and sodomy.

One former student said he's not sure about the accusations but knows something about coach Divincenzo.

"I've known "Divo" for a long time - he wasn't only a mentor, teacher but he was a friend to me," says Michael, a former student.

But, to the victims and their families, things are quite the opposite. They want all the coaches who were involved, the superintendent and the principal of Maine West fired.

Attorney Tony Romanucci who represents the four families filing the suit, gave this statement about the Facebook support page for the coaches:

"I am not critical of students who want to support the coaches and I believe in freedom of speech. However, I can assure you the ones who are supporting have not undergone the intimidation, hazing, bullying and sexual assault of the ones who have and, had they, would not be supporting coaches and/or student leaders who had knowledge this brutal practice was ongoing. "

FOX 32 News talked exclusively with a former assistant principal of Maine Township High School who said he hopes the suit will not tarnish the school's reputation.

"This is really tarnishing the image of a really great place and that bothers me a lot," says Eldon Burk. "At this point we still don't have all the information necessary to make a decision and I think that's the unfortunate thing about it - it's just spread like topsy."

Eldon Burk also wanted to say something to those involved in this case.

"I feel very sorry for the kids and my heart goes out to the parents and the families but I also feel sorry for the boys who have been removed from the school because this is their senior year, none of them have ever had any problems before and so I feel bad about that too," says Burk.

Both coaches have been re-assigned with pay and have been banned from school grounds.

They could not be reached for comment.

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