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Arizona high school baseball players avoid criminal charges for 'horseplay' on bus

Posted at 7:03 PM, Jun 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-20 14:20:57-04

Verrado High School baseball players were punished by their school, but will not face criminal charges for misconduct on a school bus, according to police and school district officials.

The wild behavior was first reported as sex acts to police occurred during a bus trip back from a game on April 5. Junior varsity softball players were riding with the varsity baseball team. A girl on the bus contacted her mom, who then called Buckeye police.

According to the police report released Monday, the surveillance video from the school bus showed players being punched, being pulled downward, tickled and poked. A few players covered the faces and mouths of teammates while other players tried to pull down their pants.

When an investigator asked one boy if another player had intended to touch his private parts, the boy said: "I knew it was his intention, but he was just trying to mess with me." 

The video did not show any exposed private parts or sex acts. The boys described it as "horseplay" to police investigators and declined to press charges against their teammates. School administrators say they don't consider the incident hazing or bullying.

"We put a label of inappropriate behavior and disrupting the educational environment on it," said Tom Huffman, Executive Director of Educational Services for the Agua Fria Union High School District.

"They didn't hear or see anything," Huffman said when asked why coaches didn't stop the inappropriate behavior. "It was on a bus ride home at night with the windows down, so there was a lot of road noise, I guess."

Huffman said five students were punished, including suspensions from school and the team, and not being allowed to attend prom.

The girl who reported the misconduct says she was retaliated against and threatened by other kids afterward, and she blames school administrators for not protecting her enough. She left Verrado High School but says she doesn't regret her decision.

School officials said they do want to hear from students who experience or witnessed abusive behavior.

"It's impossible to learn in the school environment unless you feel safe in the school environment," Huffman said.