Coopersville, S.D. district settles hazing lawsuit for undisclosed sum

By John Tunison
Grand Rapids Press
COOPERSVILLE — A federal judge approved an undisclosed settlement Tuesday between the Coopersville school district and two victims of 2007 hazing incidents, a deal officials said is confidential to protect victims from harassment and move the community forward.

“We don’t want everything stirred up and have any animosity toward these kids,” Superintendent Kevin O’Neill said.

The mediated settlement stems from a lawsuit that sought $5 million against the district and four student offenders, and ends the legal sagas that began two years ago when the hazing surfaced. The four offenders were expelled, and all received juvenile court sentences.

In a court hearing Tuesday in Grand Rapids, attorneys avoided detailing the settlement, but the discussion revealed money and “non-economic” terms were part of the deal. A third of the funds are to go to the defense lawyers, which victims’ families supported.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker approved the settlement and justified the confidentiality agreement, describing the case as having “sensitive aspects in a high school setting.”

,,,The hazings happened in early 2007 over a four- to six-week period and involved the junior varsity baseball team and locker-room incidents.

The victims suffered a variety of indignities while being held down, including slaps to their stomachs that caused skin to redden; grinding fingers or knuckles into a victim’s rectum; putting bare buttocks into the face of a victim; slapping genitals; and inserting a finger into a student’s mouth and pulling hard on the inside of the cheek, court documents showed.

In the lawsuit, defense attorneys claimed coaches did nothing to stop the behavior. Full story.

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