Judge dismisses hazing lawsuit against Plainfield District 202, coaches

Plaintiffs’ attorneys ‘evaluating all legal options at this time’

Plainfield School District 202

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that claimed two former Plainfield Central High School football team members were sexually assaulted as part of a hazing ritual called Code Blue.

On Jan. 19, U.S. Judge Charles Kocoras issued a written ruling that sided with attorneys for Plainfield School District 202 and three football coaches by granting their motion to dismiss the Aug. 23 lawsuit.

Kocoras dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice, leaving open the possibility of a second lawsuit.

Attorney Bhavani Raveendran of Romanucci & Blandin said the legal team representing “the players who were sexually assaulted in the locker room ‘Code Blue’ will continue to fight for justice for these young men and is evaluating all legal options at this time.”

Plainfield District 202 spokesman Tom Hernandez declined to comment.

Kocoras ruled the plaintiffs did not raise allegations that the district or coaches participated in the assaults or encouraged them, which would have supported their claim that the students’ constitutional rights were violated.

“Plaintiffs’ complaint focuses on the defendant coaches’ inaction. ... Again, failing to prevent the harm is simply not the same as creating or increasing the risk of harm, which is a fundamental requirement for this type of substantive due process claim,” Kocoras’ ruling said.

Kocoras also held that the parents who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit failed to support claims of their own constitutional injuries.

The Aug. 23 lawsuit alleged two students were sexually assaulted by other players in a locker room on Oct. 17, 2019, at Plainfield Central High School as part of “longstanding and prevalent hazing rituals and traditions” known as Code Blue.

The lawsuit alleged football coaches Michael Moderhack, Jon Pereiro and Vincent Vasquez knew of Code Blue, failed to monitor the school’s locker rooms and were willful and wanton in their conscious disregard of the safety of the two students.

Four Plainfield Central students were charged with battery in connection with the incident after a Plainfield police investigation. Police said the juvenile cases were “expunged in accordance with Illinois juvenile law.”

When asked if there was a new investigation in light of the lawsuit, Plainfield police Cmdr. Anthony Novak said the case remains closed and he was unaware of any additional allegations. Will County State’s Attorney spokeswoman Carole Cheney said there was “no new investigation in this matter.”

Attorneys for District 202, Moderhack, Pereiro and Vasquez, argued the plaintiffs failed to allege facts to support their claim that the defendants knew of Code Blue. The attorneys said the claim was a “threadbare conclusion without supporting facts.”

The plaintiffs’ attorneys said they have alleged in detail the “tradition and pattern” of hazing and sexual assault of freshmen players was a “well known part” of the school’s football program and coaches had “actual knowledge of specific prior sexual assaults.”

The attorneys said students’ constitutional rights are violated when they are subjected to unwelcome harassment in a school environment, even when it occurs off campus.