A serious hazing incident at Viera High School in Brevard County, Florida has led to swift action by the school board and brought attention to the need to extend the state’s current hazing laws to cover all students.
On August 14th, a high school football player was filmed in the locker room as another player simulated a sex act against his consent with the rest of the team surrounding to watch. Other players were seen pulling at the victim’s shorts and yelling, “me next, me next.” The disturbing video was not released publicly to protect the victim and because no charges have been filed.
Following the incident, the school board took decisive action. The head football coach, Shane Staples, was fired; multiple football players were suspended; upcoming practices and games were put on hold; and the entire team must undergo anti-hazing training.
The Brevard County Sheriff’s Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the incident. Sheriff Wayne Ivey stated, “Currently, our agency is conducting a complete and thorough criminal investigation into the incident by interviewing all parties involved and collecting evidence and statements from those with immediate knowledge of what occurred.” The findings will be forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office, who will decide whether to file formal charges.
Fox35 interviewed David Bianchi as an expert on hazing to discuss the case. Bianchi noted that Florida’s current hazing law does not apply to high schools, although he suggested the incident appears to be hazing by definition. Under existing criminal statutes, perpetrators in this case could potentially be charged with criminal battery.
However, Bianchi emphasized the need for leadership within schools to prevent hazing. He stated:
“There should not be a race to the criminal laws in the state of Florida any time an incident like this happens. Really, the schools need to get their house in order independently of the criminal justice system. If you do that, you don’t need the criminal laws, you don’t need the State Attorney—you just need leadership at the schools to put an end to hazing before it starts.”
Watch the full interview with David Bianchi on Fox35.
During the interview, David Bianchi announced his intentions to fight for an amendment to the existing hazing statute that would expand its coverage to high schools. He seeks to build on the process he previously used to lobby for Andrew’s Law, the latest hazing statute amendment.
Why Was the Coach Fired?
The decision to fire Coach Staples was supported by many who believe a coach should know what happens in their locker room. If Coach Staples was unaware of what was happening, some argue he was negligent, and the young men under his guidance deserve a coach who can protect them from hazing and model true camaraderie. If he was aware, there’s even more reason he needs to be removed from his post.
This profoundly troubling incident at Viera High School has resulted in significant consequences for those directly involved and ignited a broader conversation about hazing laws in Florida. The call to extend the existing statute to high schools represents a recognition that hazing is not confined to colleges and universities and that legal protections must be extended to all students.