Prosecutor: Alleged Hamilton County hazing incident was ‘a bunch of kids screwing around’

It’s “highly unlikely” that Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters criminal charges against anyone involved in an alleged hazing incident at Western Hills High School, he said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Instead, the prosecutor described the incident — captured in a short video of Western Hills football players holding a teammate down and pulling his clothes off — as an example of normal behavior among teenage boys.

He also characterized the response of Cincinnati Public Schools, which relieved football coach Armand Tatum of his duties and suspended the team’s season, as a sign of a litigious culture in which the district’s fear of lawsuits overpowered its morality.

“This is a bunch of kids screwing around,” Deters said, adding later: “They oughta apologize to (Tatum) and beg for forgiveness and reinstate the season.”

The video was recorded Aug. 30, according to Deters’ office. Cincinnati Public Schools suspended the season and removed Tatum as head coach on Sept. 9. Tatum’s supporters, including some members of the team, held a protest calling for his reinstatement the next day.

“We shouldn’t have to suffer for what happened,” Western Hills player Xavier Wright said. “Because it was only that select few that did it.”

Deters compared the district’s decisions to “using an atomic weapon when you could use a peashooter.”

“Frankly, I am stunned by the reaction of Cincinnati Public Schools,” he said. “This is — if you have ever played football, been a football coach — from all accounts that have been amassed, this football coach is a good guy. He was helping these kids in a way that they needed.”

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