Hazing or ‘horseplay?’ California high school locker room video sparks mother’s outrage

A junior varsity football player at Los Osos High School was placed in a chokehold and hit with a belt by two students identified as varsity players in a locker room assault captured on video and circulated on social media.

The video, which was pulled down from Instagram but obtained by the Southern California News Group, shows the 16-year-old boy crying out in anguish while struggling against the chokehold applied by one player. A second player, who is shirtless, then walks over to the bench where the boy is seated and slaps his legs with a belt.

The mother of the victim, Cassondra Childers of Rancho Cucamonga, identified the second player as the son of Los Osos High School’s assistant principal of instruction, Jennifer McNatt. The two older players who allegedly attacked the 16-year-old are seniors while Childers’ son, a wide receiver on the JV squad, is a junior, she said.

The Southern California News Group is withholding the name of the boy to prevent further bullying.

Responding to school officials who said the boys involved all considered the incident “horseplay,” the mother said: “This wasn’t horseplay. He was clearly screaming. It’s heartbreaking.”

The attack, which occurred Oct. 11 following an early morning weightlifting session, was witnessed by at least two other students, who sat on a bench near Childers’ son. However, neither student intervened. The video does not show any coaches or other adults in the locker room.

Mathew Holton, superintendent of the Chaffey Joint Union High School District, said in an email Wednesday, Oct. 25, that the incident is deeply troubling and is being investigated.

“We spoke with all students involved in the video, as well as their parents, coaches and other players,” Holton said. “During the investigation, the boys, including the victim, indicated this was horseplay. Nonetheless, the school and district view this incident as hazing — which we do not tolerate — and have taken appropriate action to discipline those involved.”

Childers said Los Osos school officials had her son notify her of the video Friday.

“At the time I wasn’t able to get the video because the school refused to share it with me because one of the players was filmed in his underwear,” she said. “They also said I couldn’t meet with the parents of the players involved so that I could see the video.”

Childers later obtained the video from another source and determined the matter more serious than mere horseplay. “Seeing him getting choked and hearing him screaming showed that there was no playing going on,” she said.

School officials told Childers that two students would be punished for the incident, but did not provide additional information. Additionally, her son also was punished for horseplay and was prohibited from playing or attending his team’s game Thursday, Oct. 19, against Colony High School, she added.

Childers filed a report with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and a complaint with the Chaffey Joint Union High School District.

She also met with Los Osos school officials, telling them the video was posted by football players on Instagram and complaining that she wasn’t promptly notified about the assault.

“It’s all over social media,” Childers told school officials, according to a 22-minute recording of the meeting obtained by the Southern California News Group. “It’s humiliating to him on all kinds of levels. To know that someone on staff just watched (on video) her (McNatt’s) son hit my son with a belt. That’s a weapon. That’s crazy.”

The video has since been removed from Instagram, according to Los Osos officials.

Following the meeting, Jerome Rucker, vice principal of educational services, said McNatt was so upset at seeing her son in the video that she “threw up,” Childers said.

Rucker declined to comment about the meeting and McNatt did not respond to requests for comment.

School officials told Childers they were investigating the incident to determine why there were no coaches or adults in the locker room. “I wasn’t happy at all,” said Childers, who is dissatisfied with the school’s response. “How do I know my son is safe on campus?”

The incident isn’t the first time that Los Osos’ locker room has been the focus of controversy.

In 2022, former Los Osos assistant football coach David Riden pleaded guilty to installing a hidden camera in the girls locker room. Riden was convicted on three felony charges for possessing more than 600 images of child pornography and for secretly photographing minors. He was sentenced to nine years and four months in state prison.

Meanwhile, Childers’ son didn’t attend school this week due to the incident, but plans to return on Monday. “He didn’t know how to handle it,” she said. “But now he wants it to disappear and everything to return to normal.”

https://www.dailynews.com/2023/10/27/hazing-or-horseplay-california-high-school-locker-room-video-sparks-mothers-outrage/ Hazing or ‘horseplay?’ California high school locker room video sparks mother’s outrage

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