Safford football

All Safford High School summer football camps and competitions have been canceled pending investigation into an alleged hazing incident at a camp in the Pinetop-Lakeside area in June.

SAFFORD — Those who remember an alleged Snapchat bullying incident last year that turned out to be false — and the Facebook bullying by adults against the victim before the facts were released — can understand why Safford Unified School District is staying tight-lipped about an alleged hazing incident involving the Safford High School football team.

A video was taken during a recent football camp in Payson, in which one player is shown being repeatedly punched in the abdomen by other players. That video was sent to 12 News in Phoenix, which posted the story to its Facebook page, which is how Safford parents and residents learned of the incident.

In a statement released to all media Thursday, A. J. Taylor, director of instructional services for Safford Unified School District, said investigation into the incident continues.

“Although the investigation is still pending with Pinetop/Lakeside Police, SUSD continues to progress in our investigation and is moving forward with some student and staff consequences. All summer football travel and competition has also been suspended. Our investigation is still ongoing and we are taking this matter seriously. As always, the safety of our students is our number one concern,” he said.

When asked by the Courier why parents and Safford taxpayers had to originally learn of the incident and subsequent investigation via social media rather than a direct statement from the district, Taylor said, “We generally don’t issue public statements about student investigations. In addition, we have to be careful about giving out information when a pending police investigation is in progress.

“It was never administrators’ intent to keep parents out of the loop; however, there was a pending investigation and we wanted to gather the facts before we issued statements or communicated information,” he continued. “In hindsight, we feel we should have at least let parents know sooner that there was at least a pending investigation into inappropriate student behavior. This is a change we would make.”

A local parent, who requested anonymity, was told by players it wasn’t hazing that led to the incident that was recorded.

“As they were sleeping in tents, a rule was made by the kids — and not the coaches — that if someone (passed gas), then they would be kicked out to sleep outside. A senior did and was told that if he wanted to get back in (the tent), then he would have to be punished and told he would have to be hit 25 times,” the parent said.

However, another parent, who also requested anonymity, was told a slightly different version of what occurred on the video.

“If a player (passed gas) in the tent, he would receive a five-second beating per player in the tent. So seven players times five seconds equals 35 seconds,” the second parent said. “This video was one of two beatings; they just recorded the second one.”

The first parent also named the students alleged to be in the video; however, it is the Courier’s policy to not identify minor suspects unless the minors are charged as adults.{span class=”print_trim”}

Editor’s note: This story was edited Thursday, June 20, 2019, at 10:49 a.m. to include the comments of a second parent.

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