Video circulating social media shows at least three boys in navy blue and white football uniforms forcibly shoving another boy’s head into a toilet. Later, one of the players pulls down his shorts and presses his buttocks against the boy’s head.
The Belleville News-Democrat obtained a copy of the video after the principal of Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese released a generalized letter about the investigation of a “student-related issue” and subsequent disciplinary action. The acts shown on the video have been decried by some viewers in social media as bullying or hazing.
The boys in the video are wearing football pads and practice jerseys or T-shirts depicting the Mater Dei Knights uniform colors and logos. Some wore a navy jersey that said “Mater Dei Football” in larger letters on the front.
Principal Dennis Litteken declined to release details about the incident referenced in his letter and the disciplinary measures taken due to “privacy laws” involving minors.
Litteken spoke with the Belleville News-Democrat on Tuesday, sent a prepared statement sent to the BND and posted his letter to the school’s Facebook page. In an interview, he said that “it’s a very tragic situation that occurred.”
“We implemented disciplinary action that we believe is fair, appropriate, productive, and most importantly, a reflection of our Catholic values,” Litteken wrote in an Oct. 26 letter posted on Facebook. “As is our calling, we must serve as the hand of Christ for all our students, which includes guiding them through difficult situations in a manner that holds them accountable, but also allows for growth and maturation.”
Litteken told the BND that the police were not called in connection with an incident on Oct. 17 and he declined to comment further on that issue. Breese Police Chief Mark Berndsen confirmed that his department had not received any complaints regarding an incident at the high school.
“...Following an extensive investigation, we are confident that the incident was isolated and not a repeated offense or form of hazing,” Litteken stated in his letter. “I am also asking that we remember, as is the case in each of our lives, that this one issue does not define Mater Dei and her students as a whole.”
In his prepared statement emailed to the News-Democrat, Litteken said, “We recognize this behavior was unacceptable and not in alliance with our mission statement and the values we teach and try to model.
“Please be assured that we have been in continuous contact with the student’s family to ensure the affected student has felt supported during this very difficult time. The support offered has included counseling services and continuous communication with our administration and staff.”
Litteken’s letter also was addressed on the Mater Dei football team Facebook page asking fans to move forward as the Knights prepare for their IHSA Class 2A State Playoff game scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at home against Johnston City. Mater Dei, now 7-3, defeated White County High School 40-22 in the first round.
“This particular incident has been dealt with and is now in the past,” the team’s Facebook post states. “We look towards the future.”
The post limited comments, though many Facebook users weighed in on other posts concerning the incident.
The Oct. 26 letter from Litteken said, “Unfortunately we are unable to control and to address rumors and misinformation surrounding this issue.”
Litteken was asked for details of the “misinformation” but he declined to give specifics.
He noted, however, that there are items posted on the web that “aren’t exactly accurate.”
“We just want people to realize that you can’t always believe what you read,” he said in a telephone interview.
The video obtained by the Belleville News-Democrat lasts 90 seconds. The BND is not showing it due to its graphic nature and nudity.
The video shows one boy grabbing the legs and another holding up the arms of the victim in a white jersey and full pads as they hold him up near a toilet bowl.
In the next scene, a third boy begins to grab at the victim, who struggles throughout to keep himself away from the toilet. But as they get him closer to the toilet bowl, the victim grabs the toilet seat as someone places his hand on the victim’s head.
After the victim’s hand is released from the toilet seat, his head is forced into the toilet bowl.
Others can be seen standing nearby without touching the boy.
Once he’s released, the victim is left kneeling or sitting on the bathroom floor with his shirt up over head. As his shirt is pulled down, one boy pats his hand on the victim’s face.
While he is still sitting down, one of the boys pulls down the back of his shorts and presses his buttocks against the victim’s head for about three to four seconds.
After this nudity is shown, the video shows the boys disperse and they walk out of the bathroom.