Code of silence reigns amid scandals, misbehavior at all-boys Catholic schools

Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Religious News

DETROIT -- When word got out that a football player at De La Salle High School was sexually hazed in the locker room, about a dozen athletes clammed up, including the victim, who police said doesn't want charges.

The same thing happened after a brawl broke out in December between students from Birmingham Brother Rice and Catholic Central: The case has gone nowhere because one victim doesn't want charges, police said, and no one else is talking.

Students at U-D Jesuit in Detroit were equally quiet in 2014 after a former teacher was charged with videotaping hockey players changing in a locker room. Students vented privately but refused to speak publicly.

This is the culture of silence that for years has reigned at metro Detroit's all-boys Catholic schools, where scandals involving misbehavior of all sorts put students, alumni and families on high alert as many are all too aware that reputation rules the day -- and sports is king.

When scandals break, especially ones involving sexual assault, many students and alumni don't publicly talk about it. And the victims keep a super low profile if recent controversies are any indication.

As many alumni and students have said: If you want to survive in an all-boys setting, you have to keep quiet when something bad happens.


"They would rather carry it to the grave than to let someone else know about it," said one De La Salle football parent, referring to sexual hazing victims. "You don't want to be the one to upset the brotherhood."

This is the mindset that has prevailed during the De La Salle hazing scandal, which school officials and police have said involves multiple football players being held down, sexually taunted and prodded with broomsticks. A dozen players were instructed by their parents not to talk, police said. And none of the victims have spoken.

As another football parent put it, if the victims outed themselves, the repercussions would be brutal: "There's the kid that talked, the kid who ruined our season, who got the coach fired."

Two days after the hazing allegations surfaced at De La Salle, the school abruptly ended the football season, forfeited the playoffs, suspended three athletes and, most recently, fired the coach, Mike Giannone, who led the team to two state championships in his three years there. The school was also hit with a lawsuit by the three suspended students, who are claiming, among other things, racial discrimination. The accused are minorities at a mostly white school.


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