The same lawyer currently suing LAUSD for keeping parents and students at Miramonte Elementary in the dark about Mark Berndt -- a third-grade teacher allegedly caught spoon-feeding his own semen to kids as part of a sick and sexual "tasting game" -- is now at the forefront of an unraveling scandal at La Puente High School in southeast L.A. County.
Pasadena attorney Brian Claypool, who claims to have a 90 percent win rate, tells L.A. Weekly this morning that his clients, four freshman soccer players at La Puente High...
... were sodomized with "poles" as part of a horrifying hazing initiation by older players on the soccer team.
Claypool will announce more details at an 11:30 a.m. press conference -- but claims that the La Puente High teacher who coaches the soccer team has actually been "encouraging" the longtime ritual.
Specifically, he says, by luring the boys into some sort of back room on campus, where the abuse was then allegedly carried out.
"I know there are more victims," he says. "I know this has been going on for a while. Two of our boys were in 9th grade, and they were told by varsity players: 'Dude, this has been happening.' This is not something that just started."
The L.A. County Sheriff's Department is investigating, yet remains skeptical of Claypool's allegations. Officials write in a news release that...
... LASD Detectives from the Sheriff's Special Victims Bureau are investigating allegations of hazing within a varsity sports program at La Puente High School.
The hazing incidents have gone on for several years and may have risen to the level of a crime. At this point there is no information to indicate that any member of faculty or coaching staff were directly involved.
Joseph Chang, board president of the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, said in a weekend interview with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the allegations came as a huge shock to the "school, the district and the board members." He assured Tribune reporter Brian Day that the district had launched a serious internal investigation into the disturbing allegations, but that so far, no school staffers appeared to have been "aware of these activities."
However, even if La Puente High authorities didn't know the specifics of the soccer hazing, says Claypool, it was still going on under their roof.
"It's like the Sandusky thing -- it's like Penn State," he says. "Were there signs this could have been happening?"
The boys' attorney tells the Weekly that his clients had been hesitant to come forward because they were scared of being punished by La Puente High authorities, as well as being ostracized by classmates.
According to the Tribune, one of the 14- to 15-year-olds was actually "sent to a hospital for treatment as a result of the alleged hazing."
La Puente High and multiple high-school sports websites list the school's varsity soccer coach as Bahram Alavi. He was honored as local "coach of the year" by the Tribune in 2008.
Update, 11:30 a.m.: Superintendent Barbara Nakaoka announced this morning that four students, one 18 and the rest minors, have been arrested in connection to the case. In addition, one male teacher/coach has reportedly been placed on administrative leave.