Police: Hamilton High Principal, Football Coach knew about hazing incidents

- New details are emerging on the investigation of Hamilton High School's hazing incident.

In February, Hamilton High School Principal Ken James reportedly responded to an administrator asking about allegations of violent hazing involving members of the school's Football team, saying it was the "first he's heard of it."

Newly released police documents, however, are casing doubt on James' claims, as documents claim James and now former Head Football Coach Steve Belles both knew about the incidents, well before six football players were arrested at the school.

Of the players arrested, three are facing charges, including 17 year-old Nathaniel Thomas. Now, James and Belles could both face multiple counts of failure to report, as well as child abuse charges.

According to police, James allegedly had knowledge as early as November, and also held a meeting with one set of parents, where he took notes that specifically referred to "hazing at camp". James allegedly was also aware of an anonymous voice message from January. According to police, James interviewed players, and told Belles to handle it. Belles then held a team meeting, in which players told police that he said:

  • Stop "committing gay acts"
  • Stop "raping each other"
  • "Don't do sexual things to each other"

According to police, Belles and James allegedly did not report any of these instances to authorities.

On Tuesday, Chandler Unified School District released two statements on Belles and James.

"The recommendation of charges against Mr. Belles are related to allegations limited to the Hamilton High football program.  The District has removed Mr. Belles from any  football coaching duties for the 2017 school year.   However, Mr. Belles will remain in his duties as a teacher.  The District reiterates that the county attorney has not made the decision to file a charge against Mr. Belles, and that he is innocent until proven guilty under our country's system of justice.

The District has taken significant remedial measures to address the safety of student-athletes, including addressing supervision in locker rooms, increasing dialogue relative to anti-hazing policies and behavioral expectations with coaches, student-athletes and parents, and creating training tools such as the hazing prevention video.  The District invited the media to the beginning of spring practice to address these remedial measures that will continue to be emphasized as part of the Hamilton High Football culture."

"The District has received word that a recommendation for charges against Principal Ken James has been submitted to the county attorney.  The District understands that the recommended charges relate to the state's mandatory reporting statute.  Mr. James will remain serving in his position as principal of Hamilton High School during the pendency of the county attorney's review of charges.  The District reiterates the presumption of innocence that applies to these circumstances, and has no further comment on the matter."

Chandler Unified School District officials have noted in the past that their decision to first reassign Belles to home, and their later decision to replace Belles as football coach with Dick Baniszewski are both not disciplinary in nature.

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