Another hazing victim files suit

Another former Milton High School football player is suing the school district for negligence after he was sexually assaulted with a wooden object in 2012. (Stock image)

The Milton Independent is withholding the plaintiff’s name until reaching his legal counsel, who is currently out of the country.

The case is nearly identical to the one filed by family members of the late Jordan Preavy in August 2015. Both Preavy and the plaintiff were sodomized with wooden objects at football team functions, and their perpetrators have since taken plea deals for crimes related to the hazing.

The victim’s attackers – Colby Darling and Brian Lasell – served 18-month deferred sentences for simple assault.

Filed April 28, the newest lawsuit names the town of Milton, Milton School District and Milton School Board as defendants. It says they knew of past misconduct, particularly since the team was placed on probation for misbehavior in 2010.

The attack occurred in fall 2012, when the plaintiff was a freshman, at a team dinner at Lasell’s Milton home. Darling and Lasell dragged him to the basement, where they pushed him on a couch and forcibly inserted a pool cue into his rectum, over his clothing, the filing says.

About a year later, the plaintiff and another teammate were called into Milton High School principal Anne Blake’s office to discuss rumors about an initiation ritual involving broomsticks.

She told him his parents didn’t need to come, the filing says.

Colby Darling (left) and Brian Lasell (background) were named as the plaintiff’s assailants. Though the criminal case is concluded, the victim filed a civil lawsuit against the school. (File photo by Courtney Lamdin)

There, Blake told the plaintiff if the allegations were true, she’d have to shut down the football program. Fearing retaliation from his peers, the plaintiff denied the rumors, the complaint says.

Blake then directed the plaintiff to tell upcoming freshmen there was no truth to the rumors, the lawsuit says.

It wasn’t until spring 2014 that a parent called the Vt. Department for Children and Families after their child heard the plaintiff being taunted for getting “a pool stick shoved up [his] ass,” the filing says. The Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations subsequently opened an investigation.

The lawsuit says under the Vermont Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, the district had a duty to protect him from harassment “so as to avoid a hostile school environment.”

However, the lawsuit alleges the harassment was so “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it deprived him” of obtaining a sound education. The plaintiff graduated last June.

The suit asks for damages with interest plus attorney fees and further relief for the “permanent and ongoing psychological damages” the plaintiff sustained.

“[He] continues to suffer from the harassment and assault he experienced while at Milton High School,” the complaint, filed by attorney Jerome O’Neill of Gravel & Shea, says.

On deadline Tuesday, O’Neill was out of the country and couldn’t be reached for comment. The plaintiff’s family said they were advised not to speak on the pending litigation.

School attorney Pietro Lynn of Lynn, Lynn, Blackman & Manitsky – who is also representing the school district in the Preavy case – said the district can’t respond to specific allegations.

He released a statement on the district’s behalf, saying the school works hard to create a safe environment for students and complies with its hazing, harassment and bullying policies.

A school board-commissioned investigation by former Vermont State Police captain Dan Troidl concluded just the opposite when it was released in August 2015, just before the Preavys filed suit.

Last May, the school board and superintendent Ann Bradshaw declared its probe into administrators’ compliance with hazing policy “concluded” without issuing an opinion on the Troidl report. Former superintendent John Barone was fired in February 2016 partly due to his role in handling the hazing case.

The district’s statement says it supports current and former students “who have been treated badly by other students.”

“We are saddened that we are now forced to defend ourselves against a former student, who is seeking money damages,” it says. “Any careful examination of the facts of this case will demonstrate that the school responded appropriately when it had knowledge of the alleged student misconduct. We expect that we will prevail in the litigation.”

The defendants have yet to file an official answer to the complaint.

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