Office of the Attorney General statement on investigation into alleged hazing at North Smithfield High School
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – On June 21, 2022, this Office was advised by the North Smithfield School Department that it had received information alleging that during North Smithfield High School football team activities in the spring of 2022, older football team members had engaged in “hazing” activities involving younger team members and/or prospective members when no adults were present. Immediately thereafter, this Office and the North Smithfield Police Department began an investigation of these allegations.
During this investigation, North Smithfield police interviewed or attempted to interview all individuals, adults and children, who may have witnessed or been the subject of these allegations. After consent was obtained from their parents, many football team members and prospective members agreed to be interviewed by police, and the substance of those interviews were shared and discussed with prosecutors from this Office. Other parents of football team members or prospective members did not consent to interviews of their children. Over 30 adults and children were interviewed by police.
No football team member or prospective member reported being subjected at any time to physical contact that they characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature. No football team member or prospective member or parent has requested that this Office or the North Smithfield Police Department bring criminal charges against anyone. No adults that were interviewed, including football team coaches, witnessed physical contact among football team members or prospective members that could be characterized as inappropriate or criminal in nature.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the investigation to date leaves this Office concerned with the safety of football team members, and during the off-season, prospective team members, when no adults are present during team activities. Multiple witnesses have reported, credibly, that there were times during or immediately before or after football team activities in the spring of 2022 when no adults were present. Furthermore, several individuals have separately and credibly reported to police that they witnessed older football team members engage in physical contact with younger team members and/or prospective team members that in the view of this Office was highly inappropriate, at a minimum. This conduct included older team members holding younger team members and/or prospective team members down and making apparent physical contact with them, including in the buttocks and other sensitive areas. Whether this plainly inappropriate conduct rises to the level of criminal misconduct, and whether criminal charges are possible if it does, remains undetermined at this time given the unwillingness to date of any team member or prospective member to come forward to describe precisely the physical contact that they were subjected to and make a criminal complaint to police or to this Office. This Office understands how difficult it can be for any person, particularly a child, to come forward and speak to police and prosecutors under these circumstances. We continue to encourage anyone with knowledge of this matter to contact the North Smithfield Police Department or this Office.
Accordingly, the investigation of this serious matter remains open, and continues. This Office and the North Smithfield Police Department will keep the North Smithfield community updated as appropriate. The Attorney General is grateful to the North Smithfield School Department for their prompt and appropriate attention to this matter and immediate notification of this Office upon learning of the allegations involved.