Mobile County superintendent calls Davidson hazing incident ‘deeply troubling’

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Gary and Julie DeVercelly, parents of Gary, who died in a hazing incident at Rider University 10 years ago.The photo is from last summer when they went to Washington to lobby for legislation on hazing.PHOTO: Courtesy Gary DeVercelly

Mobile County Public Schools superintendent Martha Peek has seen the video of a Davidson High School freshman being pummeled by teammates in the locker room after a spring football practice last Friday.

“You can’t imagine something like that would have happened,” she said. “You immediately are concerned about the young person who is experiencing it. It’s deeply troubling that someone would experience that.”

Peek, who is retiring this summer after six years as superintendent, held a news conference Thursday afternoon to address the media in the wake of the incident. Four Davidson students have been suspended after a beatdown that resulted in 14-year-old quarterback Rodney Kim Jr. sustaining a broken arm.

His parents, Rodney Kim Sr. and Mary Rayford-Kim, have called for quick action in the case. Rayford-Kim told AL.com Thursday morning that the family planned to press charges against the students involved. Rodney Jr. had surgery on his broken right arm Wednesday. His mother said he wasn’t likely to return to Davidson.

Peek said the suspensions could be the first step in the discipline process. She said MCPSS officials and the Mobile Police Department are still investigating. No arrests have been made yet.

“It’s very definitely a disturbing situation that occurred in the locker room at Davidson High School,” she said. “It’s something we by no means condone. We stress with our students proper decorum. Unfortunately, we had a group of young men that made some very poor decisions. Since that has come to light, we have begun immediately a complete investigation. As you can imagine, it’s complex. It will take a lot of interviewing and a lot of follow-up to get all the details and know who was involved and what took place.”

Peek said no disciplinary action has been taken against faculty members or other students at this point. She said it is her understanding that coaches were in close proximity of the situation and rushed to break it up when they heard an increase in noise.

The graphic video shows multiple students beating and kicking Kim Jr. and two jumping on him with all their weight.

Davidson coach Fred Riley has refused to comment on the situation since the investigation is ongoing. Peek said she hoped the to have a “good idea” of what took place sometime next week.

“Immediately, it was very apparent there were four students who were definitely involved, and they have suspended,” Peek said. “And when I say that, they were immediately suspended. They are not on the campus, and that may be just the first action that takes place. As we get the details, we will follow through with any other action that needs to be taken.”

The investigation will include review of the cell phone video circulating and face-to-face interviews with those involved. There were no school cameras in the locker rooms for privacy reasons.

“As I often say, we will leave no rock unturned because it is very serious,” Peek said. “We are concerned about the young man who was hurt, and we want to make sure we understand all of the details.”

Peek said every possible action would be taken to make sure no more incidents like this one occur.

Riley has been coach at Davidson since 2004 and won 110 games.

Davidson is scheduled to play a spring game against Baldwin County on May 18. Peek said she had no knowledge if that would change. The Warriors were not scheduled to practice Thursday afternoon.

Rayford-Kim said her son told her a similar incident happened to another student last week. Peek said she had no knowledge of any previous issues at Davidson and said that, if there is any type of tradition that results in locker room beatdowns, it needs to be halted immediately.

“I don’t have any indication it has been a tradition,” she said. “I have not dealt with any situation like this in the six years certainly that I have been superintendent or even before as deputy superintendent. I don’t know of any tradition like this in the school system. As I am out in public, there have been different opinions — people who are as concerned as I am and others who say, ‘you know in locker rooms this has happened since time began.’ Well, if it has been, then it is time for it to stop.”

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