A Florence-Carlton parent is calling for the expulsion of high school football players she said assaulted and traumatized her son and other freshmen.
Four student disciplinary hearings are set for Monday before the Florence-Carlton trustees. Those hearings, which will be held in a closed executive session, will follow a public comment period at the start of the 5 p.m. meeting. The hearings involve one of two recent alleged incidents under law enforcement investigation at the school.
Florence-Carlton Schools Superintendent Edward "Bud" Scully said he could not comment on any specifics regarding the disciplinary hearings.
However, Crystal Hammell told the Missoulian her son and several other freshmen on the football team were "targeted" by more senior players who, on the bus ride back from a game, held the freshmen players down in a crude initiation of sorts called a "Falcon stamp." The Florence-Carlton football team is the Falcons.
"A bunch of the kids, four of them, will grab you and hold you down while one of the students will pull his pants down and smack you in the face with his penis," Hammell said.
"I am utterly appalled."
Hammell shared the information with the Missoulian via phone while her son sat by her side, although he declined to speak directly with the Missoulian. She said that she feels like people should be aware of the alleged incident before the school board meeting on Monday.
"I would like to see something happen because this is like a sex crime," she said, noting that one of the students who allegedly assaulted her son is 18.
Hammell said she would like the students to be expelled and said those involved in the alleged incident have been suspended for 10 days, after which they are currently allowed to come back to school but cannot participate in sports.
Scully declined to confirm the status of the students, noting he is unable to comment on student disciplinary matters.
"As a parent, I don’t want my child to have to see this kid every day," Hammell said. "That is traumatizing ... the kids literally held him down against his will while the kid did this."
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Generally, Scully noted that under Montana law, students cannot be suspended for more than 10 days or expelled without approval from the school board. School administrators may extend the suspension another 10 days without board approval only if the student's immediate return would be "detrimental to the health, welfare, or safety of others, or would be disruptive of the educational process," according to state law.
Hammell doesn’t know if the behavior has happened in past years, but she said it "needs to be stopped now."
"I want my son to be able to feel safe at that school," she said.
Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton on Friday said his office is assisting in an investigation, conducted in a different jurisdiction, in connection with that alleged incident. Attorney Elizabeth Kaleva, who represents school districts across the state, also said the Florence-Carlton district has completed an investigation regarding the matter that will be brought before the board.
However, Holton also said a school resource officer and a detective in his office have conducted an investigation into a separate matter at Florence-Carlton.
"I think our investigation’s just about complete. It’s been handed over to the county attorney’s office in the form of information or a complaint. It’s up to the county attorney at this point," Holton said of the separate matter.
“The school district has done everything they need to do to make it safe," he said. "All the kids are perfectly safe in Florence.”
The Ravalli County Attorney's office did not immediately respond to the Missoulian's request for comment.
Public school boards are only allowed to hold executive sessions, or closed meetings, when "the privacy of an individual clearly exceeds the public's right to know," or to discuss litigation strategies unless the parties are public bodies, according to state law.
Information regarding specific minor students cannot be revealed in public school board meetings because it is a violation of a student’s right of privacy both per state and federal law, Kaleva said.