Wise County

Bridgeport HS Soccer Players Accused of Hazing, Stripping Teammates

Police say six students, including a juvenile were arrested on Wednesday in an ongoing hazing investigation.

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The Bridgeport Police Department said it's investigating multiple incidents of hazing at the high school where older players on the boy's soccer team are accused of pulling down the pants of younger players and recording videos. Police said the hazing happened in a school bus, locker room and a hotel.

"My reaction when I first heard about it was I was very sad. I was heartbroken for our community, but especially for the victims," said Bridgeport Police Chief Steve Stanford over the phone.

In a statement, the police department said on March 6 of this year, they were notified by the Bridgeport Independent School District staff member of a bus incident that may have involved hazing.

"BISD personnel informed officers an incident involved several players from the Bridgeport boys soccer team. Once BISD confirmed that hazing was suspected, Bridgeport Police Department initiated a criminal investigation," said police in a statement.

The police department said Detective John Bradshaw spoke with several victims, witnesses, and alleged suspects, including players from the Bridgeport Boys Soccer team, coaching staff, teachers, and administration.

It was determined that during the 2022-2023 soccer season, upperclassmen on the boys soccer team, "were involved in the hazing initiation of underclassmen, described as 'de-pantsing.'"

"These incidents involved the underclassmen (some as young as 14 years old) being restrained or held down while multiple subjects removed articles of the victim's clothing, including their pants and underwear. The victim reported that while in an unclothed state, they were filmed and made to repeat phrases such as "I'm your b----."

Police said they believe this happened multiple times including in a school locker room, a school bus, and a hotel room during an out-of-town tournament.

Authorities said during the incident in the hotel room, one of the victims who was being attacked began to yell and a pillow was placed over their face. The victim told police he almost lost consciousness.

In a separate incident, police said a victim was grabbed from behind as an upperclassman put their arm around their neck and hand over their mouth while someone else took off the victim's pants and underwear.

Stanford said he was hesitant to release all these details while the investigation continues but said, "However, I feel like it's important that the victims, in this case, understand that the wheels of justice are moving forward. Maybe at a snail's pace, but we are still waiting on evidence to be returned to us, electronic evidence to be specific," said Stanford, who also added they could possibly file additional criminal charges depending on the evidence.

NBC 5 learned that six people were arrested and charged with "personal hazing," which is a misdemeanor. Their names have been withheld until their ages could be verified. In Texas at 17 years old, one is legally considered an 'adult' in the court of criminal law. All five were released on Wednesday after posting bonds of $1,000.

When asked if any coaches, teachers or administrators would be facing consequences, Stanford said not at this time and said there's no evidence to believe anyone from the school would be held responsible.

Bridgeport ISD Superintendent Dr. Amy Ellis released a statement saying:

"Bridgeport ISD will continue to collaborate and cooperate with the police department while ensuring school consequences are in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct and district policy. The type of behavior reported to BISD and police does not align with our core values and our commitment to providing a safe and caring learning environment for all students."

Parent Reaction

"I wasn't surprised, and I was sort of angry because we've reported bullying over the years living here and nothing comes of it," said Kelley Rogers, the mother of a middle school student in the district.

She said personally they've experienced bullying in school and hopes the allegations shed light on what she calls a bigger issue.

"My house is for sale because we’ve been here 4 years and every year at school there has been a bullying incident and they go disregarded and make excuses," claims Rogers. "I raised my son to behave and it's not OK not to teach your kids to not behave, and you can't expect the school to handle all of that, but the school should step in and discipline kids when they misbehave and I think the school could do a lot better at that."

In regards to the soccer team, she and other parents are glad the police took action.

"I'm really happy that the police department is doing something, and I'm wondering why it took a little while. Did the school already know? That's my question," said Rogers. “Having heard other things about the incident, I feel like it’s more serious than what the charges reflect. That was totally demeaning and sexual assault is a serious crime, should be taken seriously.”

"When I heard about it I was disgusted and just felt like they don’t address issues when they come up in the school system," said Jessie Reasoar, who also said one of her kids in the district has experienced bullying in the past. "It made me feel disturbed, it made me feel like second-guessing, like should my kids continue to go to this school?"

Reasoar, who grew up in Bridgepoint, said she feels like the arrests were a step in the right direction toward justice but feels like more needs to be done.

"Take bullying and harassment very to heart when someone comes and says something to you and make sure that kids are always safe when someone comes to say something. Don't let anyone tell you that it's up to your kid to take it into their own hands," said Reasoar.

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