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Students face hazing incident charges

By Charles Bennett, AP
May 16, 2003

SKOKIE, Ill. (AP) Prosecutors charged 15 teens with misdemeanor battery Friday in the brutal hazing of high school girls but saved their harshest words for people in the upscale Chicago suburb who continue to stonewall them in their investigation.

"There is a tremendous lack of information coming forward from the people of the community about who did supply the alcohol," said Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine.

In the videotape, junior girls from Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook are covered with mud, paint, feces and garbage by other students as onlookers, some hoisting beer cups, cheer them on.

Devine said at least six junior girls were injured "in a high school rite of passage gone bad." Five girls ended up in the hospital.

A dozen girls and three boys were charged Friday. Misdemeanor battery charges carry a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail.

The students agreed to turn themselves in Friday, said Steve Goebel, an assistant state's attorney. Bond is set at $1,000 for each, and their next court date is June 11, Goebel said.

By 2 p.m., about a dozen of the students had turned themselves in at the courthouse in Skokie. All refused to talk to the small army of reporters gathered outside.

One of the students, 18-year-old Kirsten Barrish, was accompanied by Thomas Breen, a prominent Chicago defense attorney. Barrish was one of three students who sued this week after the school handed out 10-day suspensions.

"She's doing OK," Breen said of Barrish. "She's had better days, but she's doing good."

Authorities have said they believe the reason this "powder puff" football game, an annual event for several years, turned in to a melee was the presence of alcohol.

But Devine said in the nearly two weeks since the May 4 incident at a Cook County park, investigators have been met with silence whenever they asked who supplied the alcohol before and during the incident.

"When everybody you talk says they have a lawyer and don't want to talk to you, there's an issue," said an obviously frustrated Devine. "And the issue for this community is whether people are going to come forward and are going to talk to law enforcement."

Devine stressed that he understands those involved in the incident have a right not to talk to investigators and a right to an attorney. But he said he believed there might be people in the community who were not involved in the incident but knew who supplied the alcohol.

Providing alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor.

Friday's news conference to announce charges is the latest chapter in a story that has gained international attention as the videotapes have been repeatedly shown on television news.

The school, in the affluent suburb of Northbrook, has suspended 32 students who officials claim took part in the hazing. Although the event was off-campus and not sanctioned by the school, officials have said state and local school codes allow the 10-day suspensions.

Principal Michael Riggle says the school is recommending the students be expelled. Expulsion would bar them from the campus and school activities such as prom and graduation ceremonies, although they would still receive a diploma.

Some students have filed lawsuits to overturn the suspensions. Others are going through the school's appeals process.

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