The webpage for Glacier High School's Wolfpack football team touts an attitude that's "much more than simply a football team ... we are a family. A family cares about one another, loves one another and works to make sure that seach member experiences success."
Earlier this month, in the rear seats of a darkened team bus as coaches slumbered unaware, that family allegedly fractured. Now two of its freshman members face misdemeanor charges for a sexual assault allegedly committed against eight other football players.
An investigation by Kalispell police resulted in a sexual assault charge against one 15-year-old, and a charge of accountability to sexual assault against another.
"At this point, I still have the two boys on long-term suspension and am considering an expulsion hearing for one or more of the boys," Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Darlene Schottle said Thursday.
Six other team members identified by a school investigation as also having participated in the alleged assault all have returned to school from suspensions that ranged from six to nine days, depending on their level of involvement, Schottle said. All were removed from the freshman football team. A coach also left the team.
Kalispell Police Department School Resource Officer Jason Parce said the coaches were asleep in the front of the bus when the incident occurred.
"It was dark on the bus and a lot of people had their iPods in," he said. "Given the facts of the circumstances, it would be hard to hear what was going on, on a bus on a highway, especially if you were sleeping." A video recorder in the bus wasn't working that night, he said.
Both Schottle and Parce, who's assigned solely to Glacier High, said the incident has served as a learning experience for students and their families. Both have been inundated with calls from parents.
"Their concern is whether or not their kids are safe here at the school and what they can do to make sure this doesn't happen to their kid," Parce said.
Schottle said that in addition to reiterating rules for all coaches and team members, the school has offered counseling to the students involved and changed their schedules if requested.
Each Glacier High freshman is assigned a mentor, and a mentoring day program next week will focus on bullying and hazing, she said.
"This is a really devastating situation for a group of young boys to go through," she said. "They made a very poor choice in this situation. We're working to put more supports in place so this won't happen again."
Parce said the final police report on the incident would be sent Friday to the Flathead County Attorney's Office, which will decide next week whether to formally file the charges in Youth Court.
"Things like this are hard to prevent," he said. "But as we educate these kids, we're certainly hoping that they understand the severity of the crimes that occurred on this bus, and that it would help deter other people from making this same mistake."
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio
@missoulian.com or CopsAndCourts.com.