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Suspended basketball players reinstated at Mouat

Seven basketball players suspended from W.J. Mouat Secondary after an alleged hazing incident have resumed attendance at the school.

Seven senior boys basketball players suspended from W.J. Mouat Secondary after an alleged hazing incident have resumed attendance at the school.

The final round of school board reviews were completed earlier this week, and Abbotsford school district communications manager Dave Stephen confirmed on Thursday afternoon that the students’ suspensions had been lifted.

Stephen did not name the players or reveal details of the incident, other than to acknowledge it was “activities around a team initiation.”

“Some of the reports that were out on social media were quite exaggerated,” he said. “By its nature, that kind of thing can happen on social media.

“What we discovered was that each of the students recognized and they acknowledged that the behaviour was inappropriate. The victims and the players who were involved all came to an agreement that they wanted to move forward. They all recognized how serious the actions were, but everyone wanted to move forward, including the victims and the parents. We believe we came to the right conclusion.”

The seven players were suspended in mid-December after a tournament in Edmonton. The Hawks participated in the Mike Dea Classic at St. Francis Xavier high school, Dec. 5-7.

The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) opened a preliminary investigation into the matter, with the sex crime unit involved. The investigation was still ongoing as of last week, but calls to the EPS on Thursday morning requesting an update were not returned by press deadline.

Three students had their suspensions reviewed by the school, while the other four faced more serious district board reviews. The school reviews were completed prior to Christmas, but the district delayed releasing those outcomes to avoid creating any expectation of how the board reviews would go.

“There was a victims’ impact letter submitted ... and basically the conclusion was from all sides that they really wanted to get beyond this,” Stephen said.

According to a statement released by the district, Mouat staff will “engage all athletes in proactive discussions and activities related to appropriate and positive behaviours.”

Any further basketball-related sanctions for the seven players were left to the Hawks’ coaching staff, and head coach Rich Ralston said five of the seven players have been reinstated to the team.

“Two students, we still have yet to completely make decisions on,” he said. “And they have also yet to decide whether they want to return to the team.”

Ralston said the offending players wasted no time showing remorse for their actions and have been “welcomed back” by the team.

“There’s been public apologies to the team – even prior to us requiring that, they had already done it themselves, almost immediately,” he said.

Ralston’s hope is that the incident is a learning experience for the players.

“The reason why the majority of us do it (coach school sports) is to be able to give young people experiences that they will be able to grow from as human beings,” he said.

“When you make as grave an error as these kids have, there’s only growth to be had from it. In the end, we’re hoping that the students have learned from their mistake, and when the situation comes up again in their future, they’ll have learned from it ... and they’ll be better adults.”