By David DeKok
HARRISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - Police and school officials on Wednesday were investigating an alleged hazing incident in which two members of a high school soccer team are accused of tying an autistic teammate to a goal post with duct tape for more than 20 minutes.
The incident occurred Sunday evening on the Highlands High School soccer field in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, about 23 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, said school district spokeswoman Misty Chybrzynski.
A spokesman for the Harrison Township Police Department declined to comment on the case, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
Police on Tuesday told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that a security camera tape showed two 17-year-old soccer players duct-taping 16-year-old Austin Babinsack to a goal post.
Babinsack, described as autistic by his mother, became agitated and started screaming, the newspaper said. His cries were heard by passersby, who came to his aid and reported the incident to police.
The youth quit the soccer team Monday night after other players allegedly called him a snitch, WPXI Channel 11 News in Pittsburgh reported. Kristie Babinsack, his mother, could not be reached by Reuters for comment.
Turner, a contract coach who is not on the faculty, declined comment Wednesday, citing the criminal investigation. He referred questions to his lawyer, Julian Neiser.
“Mr. Turner had absolutely no involvement in the incident, was not present when it happened, and first learned of the allegations about the students after the fact,” Neiser said.
Chybrzynski said the school district plans to wrap up the investigation quickly, but could give no timetable.
“Highlands School District does not take matters such as hazing or bullying lightly,” she said. “The district issues strict disciplinary action on students who think these actions are appropriate or harmless.”
The allegations surfaced during the same week as news that the Sayreville, New Jersey, school board canceled the rest of the local high school's football season because of reports of widespread intimidation and other bullying among players.
(editing by Gunna Dickson)