Maine Township says hazing investigation cost $115,000

Tribune reporter

A roughly five-month investigation into hazing allegations at Maine West High School has cost the district about $115,000, a district spokesman said Saturday.

In January, Maine Township High School District 207 hired the law firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP to conduct an outside investigation of the district’s response after reports of hazing on boys soccer and baseball teams at the Des Plaines high school first surfaced last September.

The legal bills fall within the range expected by the district for the firm's now-completed work, said spokesman David Beery.

“We hired a highly reputable and independent investigator knowing he had the background and expertise to conduct the kind of thorough and independent investigation we were looking for,” Beery said. “He did the job we expected him to do.”

The firm's lead investigator, former Assistant U.S. Attorney Sergio Acosta, and his team gathered about 18,000 documents and records and interviewed 22 school and district personnel, according to a nine-page report released in May by the law firm.

That report found no wrongdoing on the part of school and district office employees and administrators. The report also did not directly refer to Maine West soccer coaches Michael Divincenzo or Emilio Rodriguez, who are accused of doing nothing to prevent incidents involving sodomy and other abuses.

Divincenzo, who has been fired by the district, faces misdemeanor charges of hazing, battery and failing to report abuse.

The district also moved to fire Rodriguez, who has appealed the board's decision with the state board of education.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing, according to Des Plaines police reports.

The district is currently involved in a pending civil lawsuit brought by alleged hazing victims.

Last month, school board members considered potential policy changes on reporting child abuse and neglect, as well as maintenance of personnel records.

Those alterations, which could be finalized as early as Monday, mostly stem from recommendations generated by Acosta and his team.

More expenses are on the horizon for the district, which also commissioned the California-based consultant Community Matters to survey the climate of bullying, hazing and harassment in the district.

Results of that report, released early last month, found that staff at the three district schools reported having less time to be in the places where hazing and bullying incidents are likely to occur. The report also concluded that cyber-bullying and other forms of electronic harassment in the district mirrors a growing trend in schools across the country.

Beery was unable to say Saturday how much Community Matters has charged the district for its work.

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