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Florence-Carlton School file

Florence-Carlton School

FLORENCE — The Florence-Carlton School Board on Monday voted to ban four football players from extracurricular activities following reports they assaulted freshmen on the team as part of a hazing ritual.

Nearly 20 people filed into the special meeting Monday evening, but most were soon turned outside when Trustee Kim Bauer, who chaired Monday night’s meeting, told the audience she would be closing the session due to issues of student privacy. The special meeting was called to vote on the administration’s recommendations that four high school students on the football team be removed from extracurricular activities.

Ed “Bud” Scully, Florence-Carlton superintendent, said after the meeting that the school’s investigation continues, but added he has not heard any uproar from the community since the allegations were made to school officials.

“We’re not done and there are other things we want to find out,” he said. “It’s not something that will define Florence. Florence is a great community, it’s a great school.”

Crystal Hammell told the Missoulian last week her son and several other freshmen were “targeted” by more senior players who, on the bus ride back from a game, held freshmen players down while one senior would “smack” the freshman in the face with his penis. In an interview last week, she called for the full expulsion of the students who allegedly committed the assaults. Hammell did not return a call seeking comment on the board's decision Monday night.

After an hour in closed session to discuss the matter with administrators and one student, the board re-opened the meeting for a public vote and unanimously decided to approve the recommendation for that student's removal from extracurriculars. The board went back into a closed session for each student and as hours passed, the second, third and fourth students each were removed from extracurriculars.

For one student who was not a senior, Bauer made a motion to modify the administration’s recommendation to not only remove him from extracurricular activities for the remainder of the school year, but require an additional hearing before the board next year if he wanted to participate in extracurricular activities during the 2020-2021 school year. Trustee Tara Zeiler interjected with a motion to accept the recommendation that covered the remainder of this year. After some thought, the board, including Bauer, unanimously voted to remove him from activities for this year alone.

Outside the school district office, parents and students huddled in groups after the board went into its first executive session. One woman, who declined to give her name for this story, said she was there to support the mother of a student accused of the indecent hazing.

“I know her son. He’s not a bad kid,” she said. “He made a bad choice, but he’s not a bad kid.”

Mandy Andersen, on the Florence-Carlton volleyball coaching staff, said she was there for the opposite reason.

“I support everyone in this community, but my kid quit football because of stuff from a lot of these kids,” she said. “It is what it is and kids will be kids, but I think it's a community issue.

“I don't think any kid is inherently bad or sets out to hurt anybody else” she added. “I just think there’s something more we can do as parents and as a community to foster kids who treat other people with respect.”

Several people standing outside the building who declined to speak with the Missoulian on the record, talked about the rift an event like this can create in a town like Florence, a Bitterroot Valley community of fewer than 1,000 people. The football team reached the Class B quarterfinals this year, earning its first home field playoff game in 23 seasons, the Ravalli Republic reported. The Florence-Carlton Falcons lost out on the road to Fairfield on Nov. 9.

Ravalli County Attorney Bill Fulbright did not return a call from the Missoulian on Monday seeking more information, including whether his office would prosecute the students.

Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton said last week his office has also wrapped up a second, separate investigation at Florence-Carlton High School. Details of that investigation have not been released.

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