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March 17, 2016

Conestoga High School football coach resigns amid hazing scandal

District relieves coaching staff of duties

Scandals Hazing
03172016_Conestoga_High_inset_GM Sources/Google StreetView;

Before his resignation, John Vogan was head coach of the football and baseball teams at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Chester County.

Conestoga High School football coach John Vogan has resigned following charges filed against his players for an alleged hazing ritual dubbed "No Gay Thursday," the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District announced Thursday.

Vogan has been relieved of all coaching responsibilities, according to a letter posted on the school district's website Thursday.


Before his resignation, John Vogan was head coach of the football and baseball teams at Conestoga High School.

Also, the entire varsity and junior varsity football coaching staffs at the Berwyn, Chester County, school have been relieved of "all coaching responsibilities in all sports through the fall season," the letter addressed to parents stated.

Three senior Conestoga football players are charged as juveniles for allegedly assaulting a freshman teammate who refused to help other underclassmen clean the team's locker room while wearing just their underwear. Two of the players charged allegedly held down the freshman while the third player penetrated the victim's rectum with a broomstick. 

The alleged assault occurred during "No Gay Thursday," a weekly hazing ritual in which actions otherwise deemed as "gay" where permissible, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced March 4. 

The ritual also allegedly included upperclassmen placing their genitals on other players' heads, players "grinding" up against other players' legs and upperclassmen ordering younger players to undress them, Hogan said.

Investigators found "No Gay Thursday" dated back, at least, three years, but found no evidence that the team's coaches were aware of it. While admitting his astonishment, Hogan said the coaches never supervised the team's locker room, giving the team free reign.

The letter posted on the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District's website was signed by Superintendent Richard Gusick and Conestoga High School Principal Amy Meisinger. It announced the initial findings of the district's own investigation into hazing ritual, which involved more than the three players facing criminal charges.

Administrators found no evidence that any adult had knowledge of the hazing incidents, affirming the findings of the investigation conducted by law enforcement officials. But the district found the locker rooms had "insufficient adult presence throughout the football season, creating an environment where hazing activities could occur," the letter said.

The letter did not state whether any students are facing penalties implemented by the district.

In response, Tredyffrin/Easttown is creating a full-time athletic director position for its middle and high school athletic sports programs and drafting a comprehensive plan to support students and staff.

That plan includes required programming for the entire football team to "foster and maintain a positive and respectful sport culture," the letter said. It also aims to enhance tolerance and diversity efforts by working with the Anti-Defamation League and invites Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association to review all school practices related to its athletic culture.

"Conestoga does not accept any type of intolerance, hazing, bullying or intimidation within our school community," the letter said. "'No Gay Thursday' is ignorant, intolerant, and has no place in any school. Even though no gay students were specific targets of discrimination, the practice itself is an affront to us all.

"We are committed to eliminating these activities and providing a positive, respectful environment that is safe for all students."

The three charged seniors, all 17 years old at the time of the Oct. 15 incident, are facing charges of conspiracy, assault, possessing an instrument of crime, unlawful restraint, and other related offenses.

Hogan could have charged the players with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, but instead honored the victim's request to withhold sexual offense charges.

Investigators learned of the alleged assault after the boy eventually told his father, Hogan said. The boy did not sustain any permanent physical injuries. He is no longer a student in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District.