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Warren De La Salle High School places president on leave amid football hazing case

Total of 7 students face charges

WARREN, Mich. – The De La Salle High School Board of Trustees has placed school President John M. Knight on paid administrative leave as a football hazing case moves through court.

“Over the past several weeks, the Board has been engaged in discussions about the future of De La Salle Collegiate. Coming out of these meetings, the decision was made to place President John M. Knight on paid administrative leave as the Board continues its discussions and makes decisions going forward,” reads a statement from the school.

UPDATE: Warren De La Salle High School fires school’s president amid hazing investigation

In a statement following the announcement Thursday morning, Knight’s attorney said the leave is “undefined.”

“John Knight was placed on an undefined ‘leave’ yesterday afternoon,” reads the statement from his attorney, Sarah Prescott. “He reported suspected sexual abuse of youths to the authorities and very recently several were criminally charged. Mr. Knight’s personnel file was perfectly clean before he did this -- so I have asked the school’s attorneys for any explanation other than the obvious, that this is retaliation for his whistleblowing. I have received no explanation. Since reporting the hazing in a program involving a popular coach, Mr. Knight has been subject to outrageous personal abuse including threats to himself and his family. This community needs to ask itself what it stands for, because this man did the right thing and now he has been attacked and removed.”

Meanwhile, seven students who were on the De La Salle football team faces charges in connection with an alleged “broomsticking” hazing ritual that took place this past fall. The hazing incident in question happened Oct. 19 and included students being forcibly held down and prodded with a broomstick while their clothes were on, according to authorities.

Warren police conducted an investigation into the De La Salle football program after the team forfeited its Michigan high school playoff game due to the allegations of hazing. Prosecutors revealed Jan. 28 that they didn’t have enough evidence to take the case to court, suggesting the school officials withheld important documents and saying important evidence was destroyed before they received the case.

The next day, a new victim came forward. The family of a football player who said he was victimized during the alleged hazing was unhappy with the prosecutors’ decision. They said they were willing to talk to police.

A second accuser came forward the following day -- less than 48 hours after the prosecutors’ decision not to file charges.

Now, Cleveland Harville III, Galiko Lovelace, Michael Young, Sean Bonery and Ricky Pearson all face charges as adults. Two other players are charged as juveniles.

On Feb. 13, more than 100 De La Salle parents gathered to share their disgust about how the school handled the allegations.

Here’s the full statement from the school about Knight’s placement on leave:

"We wanted to provide you with an update regarding a recent action by the Board of Trustees and approved by the Brothers of Christian Schools. Over the past several weeks, the Board has been engaged in discussions about the future of De La Salle Collegiate. Coming out of these meetings, the decision was made to place President John M. Knight on paid administrative leave as the Board continues its discussions and makes decisions going forward. The Brothers of the Christian Schools and the Board of Trustees remain committed to following best practices and providing an education of excellence to every De La Salle student. As we look towards a leadership transition, we will be working with a national search firm to find a permanent replacement by August 3.

We expect the transition process to be fairly seamless. If you should have concerns around academic or extracurricular matters, please continue to contact our Administration team: Principal Nathan Maus and Assistant Principals Christopher Dean and Brent Widdows. This team will continue to work with our strong faculty and staff to maintain our culture of excellence. As always, they will be glad to help you with any questions or concerns.

Major Gifts Officer Greg Esler will continue to lead the Advancement team. In addition, he will oversee our Admissions team. This is a time when recruitment is in high gear and we are actively visiting with interested students and families. We always welcome your recommendations for prospective students and your support as we engage new families and build new relationships.

While transitions are difficult, they also allow organizational boards opportunities to consider new direction and a range of strategic options. During this transition, the Board will continue to engage with our faculty and staff, parents, donors, and alumni as we lay the foundation for our upcoming strategic planning process. We continue to welcome your thoughts, points of affirmation, and suggestions.

Thank you again for trusting us with your sons. We appreciate your partnership in the educational process. At the heart of our efforts remains the academic and spiritual vision of Saint John Baptist de La Salle. As we seek to live out the values and mission of De La Salle, we welcome your continued support and prayers. Again, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns that you may have.

Live Jesus in our hearts, forever!"

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