In light of our commitment to keep you informed on important items, we wanted to provide you with an update on several issues. The past few months have been difficult for our De La Salle Collegiate community. We have sought to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement authorities at all levels and with all things. We continue to appreciate how difficult their work is and will continue to cooperate fully with them as together we create a safe and positive learning environment.
While we have not been contacted by the prosecutor’s office with respect to any decision regarding its hazing investigation, we feel that it is important to respond to the recent media reports. The first priority of the leadership at De La Salle is to provide an education of excellence to every student reflective of our Lasallian Catholic values. In all cases, our commitment is to act with the best interests of our students and their families. We recognize that people of integrity will not always agree on all decisions, however, we will always seek to work for what is best for our students.
For instance, when the leadership at De La Salle was notified of a hazing situation, an internal investigation was immediately conducted. Within 24 hours of determining that hazing had in fact occurred, we contacted an assistant prosecutor, and upon being redirected to the police department, we immediately contacted and sought to work with local law enforcement officials. During their investigation, our leadership team spoke with and actively provided information to them.
Several media headlines implied the loss or destruction of evidence; however, we have no knowledge of evidence being lost or destroyed. Several areas were beyond our control. While there are no security cameras in the locker room, there are security cameras in the hallways. As a result, the police department requested tapes over the time when the hazing occurred. We acknowledged that our taping system is designed to loop and tape over after 14 days. The report of possible hazing did not occur until after that 14-day period and thus those tapes were automatically taped over and lost. This is a design feature that comes with a 14-day taping system. We are considering other options as we look to update the system.
The state of Michigan and the federal government not only require that the school work with law enforcement in situations like this, the school is mandated by law to conduct its own internal investigation. The difficult issues that the police and prosecutor acknowledge in their investigation were also true for the school. Individuals, coaches, and families generally refused to talk about what occurred, often upon the advice of legal counsel outside of the school. These roadblocks slowed the process and prevented all sides from gathering information regarding what was happening.
In addition, De La Salle hired a third-party investigator to review the situation. That individual also discovered how difficult it was to gather information. After the investigator confirmed in a phone conference that he had expended his budget and ran into multiple roadblocks (similar to the prosecutor’s office) the school decided to expand the investigation internally.
Information was obtained that students in the locker room were not always supervised which made hazing incidents possible. The football coach was released, and additional information became available thereafter. This information was shared with the prosecutor’s office and with law enforcement. No report was completed by the investigator.
Again, we have appreciated the efforts of law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office to support the work of the school and to support our commitment to maintaining a safe and positive learning environment for our students. We will continue to work proactively with law enforcement on safe school initiatives in the years to come.
In the coming 6-8 weeks, the Board will be engaging in several processes to speak with you as parents, donors, and alumni to identify key issues of concern, areas of affirmation, and trends or areas where additional work could occur. This information will help to inform long-term strategic decision-making both to analyze and learn from this incident and as a precursor to our strategic planning process. We will keep you informed of those opportunities in the weeks to come.
Thank you for your ongoing support and your commitment to De La Salle. We remain committed to a positive and safe learning environment that allows every student to succeed both in school and in life.
John M. Knight Nathan R. Maus