Damascus JV Football Under Investigation

Adam Pfeiffer ‘20

On Thursday, November 1, Damascus Principal Casey Crouse announced that the JV football team would forfeit their game against Sherwood the same day amid allegations of hazing and sexual assault. The game was a makeup of the originally scheduled September 8 matchup. The alleged assault occurred on Wednesday, Halloween, after school in the male locker room.

As a result of an ongoing police investigation, five male students were arrested on November 2 on counts of first and second degree rape and attempted rape using a wooden broomstick. Four male victims have been identified in the investigation.

On November 21, Montgomery County police, at the direction of the state attorney’s office, charged four of the five attackers as adults, subsequently causing the names to be released. Caleb Thorpe, 15, Jean Claude Abedi, 15, Kristian Jamal Lee, 15, and Will Daniel Smith, 15, are expected in their first court appearance in front of a judge on November 26. The four face the worst of the charges, including first degree rape and first degree attempted rape.

In a police report obtained by the Washington Post, the assault is graphically described. The first victim was in the locker room around 2:30 p.m. when the lights turned off, and then was attacked by two teammates who shoved him to the ground, and held his legs open. The assault lasted around 10 seconds before the attackers moved on to a second victim. They followed a similar strategy in assaulting the second victim, and tried the same on two additional victims; however, both students were able to fight off the attackers.

Both Crouse and MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith have released statements, Crouse on Thursday and Smith on November 3. “The alleged behavior is upsetting and unacceptable and will not be tolerated at Damascus,” said Crouse.

These events came right after a time of great joy for Damascus football. On October 26, the varsity football team broke the Maryland state record for the longest win streak, winning its 51st straight game, which is also the longest active in the nation. One of the victims has said that he heard about players getting “the broom” in 8th grade.

It is important to try to sort out the facts of the case. There are rumors and additional allegations of the program and players that must be taken with a grain of salt, something that Smith emphasized in his statement on November 3. “We encourage everyone to avoid spreading rumors online or in person … they can also be a distraction to the investigation,” said Smith.

The Washington Post published an unsigned opinion article about the issue on November 10, criticizing MCPS for how they handled the incident. The county initially downplayed the assault, and the Post called for a thorough investigation to determine whether or not there are systematic problems.

On November 11, the Washington Post reported that a second set of allegations have emerged from Seneca Valley, stemming from an alleged September 18 assault. Not much is known at this point, but Montgomery County Police have learned there are multiple suspects, on the football team, who sexually touched one victim, also on the football team, in an unwanted way. The victim does not want to press charges.

The county has implemented anti-hazing procedures, beginning with a powerpoint shown to all fall and winter sports teams. The powerpoint informs the athletes how to identify hazing and potential consequences.