CADILLAC – The mother of a victim involved in a bullying / hazing incident involving the Pine River football team was upset when one of the three students disciplined by the district was allowed to participate in a sports-related function.
The parent, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of her minor son, said she was disappointed and appalled that one of the three students who were disciplined was able to participate in an activity that she assumed they would not be allowed to do.
The victim’s mother said she would like these students to be held accountable without loopholes being found that allow them to play sports and / or go to school early.
Pine River Area Schools Superintendent Matt Lukshaitis said while he could not speak about a particular student or a student’s record, he did respond about the district’s interpretation of the discipline given to the students.
Lukshaitis said the district admits it misapplied the interpretation to the consequence as it pertained to Michigan High School Athletic Association-sanctioned summer activities for a winter sport. He also said the issue was rectified but had no further comment.
After nearly a year since the incident occurred, the Pine River Area Schools Board of Education completed its Title IX Sexual Harassment investigation and voted to administer its punishment to three students for involvement with the July 2021 incident.
At its May 9 meeting, the board voted for the three students to either be suspended or expelled for level 5 violations of the student code handbook that included what was described as dangerous horseplay, aggressive behavior toward another student and a sexual assault.
In addition to the suspension, the first of three students were allowed to return to school on May 10 after serving the suspension and also had to perform 10 hours of service within the district before Aug. 1. If the first student failed to complete the service hours, that student would be ineligible for 50% of the fall sports season in the upcoming school year.
The second of the three students were suspended until the start of the 2022-2023 school year and also was deemed ineligible for 50% of the fall sports season. That student also had to perform 20 hours of service to the district before Aug. 1. If the second student failed to complete the service hours, that student would be ineligible for 100% of the fall sports season in the upcoming school year.
The third student received the harshest discipline from the board, as that student was expelled until the second semester of the 2022-2023 school. That student is not permitted to play in 100% of the fall and winter sports seasons and must seek counseling from a mental health professional. During the expulsion, the student may not be on school grounds or attend any functions within the district without prior written approval from an appropriate administrator.
It was not disclosed which student of the three who was disciplined was part of this off-season, winter sport-related activity.
In each of the three disciplinary actions, all three could be reviewed once again by the board if a plea of guilty or no contest is accepted by the students, or if they are convicted of or adjudicated for, criminal sexual conduct.
In October, the district announced the Pine River varsity football team would be canceling the rest of its football season due to confirmation of hazing and bullying. Also in October, Osceola County Sheriff Mark Cool confirmed his office di lui had an open investigation into a hazing incident at Pine River High School. Soon after, however, Cool said his office and detectives would not have any involvement moving forward as the Mount Pleasant Michigan State Police Post was the lead agency in the investigation moving forward.
Michigan State Police Sixth District Public Information Officer Lt. Michelle Robinson said Monday there was nothing new to report and the incident remains under investigation by MSP detectives.