(MCT) — One of the two coaches linked to allegations of hazing on athletic teams at Maine West High School has been suspended without pay by the district while officials pursue his dismissal.
Maine Township High School District 207 reached that unanimous decision on the fate of Michael Divincenzo, a physical education teacher, former freshman baseball coach and current head boys and girls varsity soccer coach, after spending almost three hours in closed session Wednesday night at the district headquarters in Park Ridge.
"The board believes Mr. Divincenzo violated District 207 Board of Education policy and professional expectations by failing to adequately prevent, recognize, report and punish student hazing," board President Sean Sullivan said in a statement.
Divincenzo and freshman boys and girls soccer coach Emilio Rodriguez were put on paid leave and reassigned from teaching duties while the district and authorities investigate allegations of hazing on the school's soccer and baseball teams.
Divincenzo, a tenured teacher, has 17 days to request a hearing on his dismissal through the Illinois State Board of Education, Sullivan said. A hearing could take up to one year.
The board will continue consideration of any disciplinary action against other staff members involved in hazing allegations.
Earlier Wednesday night, more than 60 people, many of them former students and athletes, packed a public meeting Wednesday night to speak on behalf of the coaches.
"These two individuals that we're talking about today, they meant a lot to each and every one of us that's in this room today," said Alex Esquivel, a 2009 Maine West graduate and former soccer player, at a meeting in Maine Township High School District 207's headquarters in Park Ridge. "(Divincenzo) always stressed nothing but respect on and off the field. As a whole, I think he strived to make each and every one of us better men."
A 1994 Maine West graduate, Josh Thvedt said he has known Divincenzo since they were 5 years old. He said he's still in contact with Divincenzo.
"He's doing the best he possibly can under the circumstances," Thvedt said. "I think he'll try to find a way to move on. He's not a quitter."
Attorney Tony Romanucci, who is representing four athletes from the Des Plaines school in a lawsuit against the coaches and school officials, said after the public comments that he respected the opinions of those who spoke in defense of the coaches. But he said the accusers "suffer in silence."