Hazing at Mingus Union leads to 180-day suspensions for baseball players

Attorney Phillip Visnansky represented Tyler Kelly, who was suspended Monday for 180 days by the Mingus Union school board for sexually related hazing. (Photo by Bill Helm)

Attorney Phillip Visnansky represented Tyler Kelly, who was suspended Monday for 180 days by the Mingus Union school board for sexually related hazing. (Photo by Bill Helm)

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In a disciplinary hearing Monday, former Mingus Union football coach Bob Young told members of the Mingus Union school board that hazing “of any sort would not be tolerated.” (Photo by Bill Helm)

COTTONWOOD – Hazing is a matter of zero tolerance, the Mingus Union School Board said Monday in a 3-to-0 public vote to suspend one of its senior student-athletes for 180 days.

In an open disciplinary hearing that lasted close to three hours, senior Tyler Kelly was told that he would need to continue his education elsewhere if he planned to graduate in two months.

Kelly, whose family requested the open hearing, was suspended from school and from his place on the school’s varsity baseball team due to a March 6 incident where he and another student were charged with a sexually related hazing of three students on a school bus.

According to Mingus Union Superintendent Penny Hargrove, the incident was reported “by the coaching staff that the bus was out of control and that they needed assistance to help resolve the situation.”

Superintendent Hargrove also said that there were five adults on the bus during the incident, including the bus driver.

Since the incident, “protocol has been put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Hargrove also said.

Those protocols include a requirement that adults be “distributed in the front, the back and the middle of the bus for better eye-to-eye contact of the kids,” Hargrove said.

Hargrove also said that though students can listen to music on the bus, that they must use earphones.

“If an adult can hear it, the music must be turned down or turned off,” Hargrove also said.

The other student, whose hearing was limited and name wasn’t released because of translation problems, also ultimately received a 180-day suspension from Mingus, said Superintendent Penny Hargrove.

Amid suggestions that there was a culture of hazing at Mingus Union, Hargrove said that while she doesn’t know what happened at the school before she arrived on July 1, that hazing “is not the culture of Mingus.”

“I can’t believe if it had happened that it wouldn’t have been reported and consequences delivered,” Hargrove said.

In addition to the sworn statements given during Monday’s hearing, school board members and sworn witnesses watched video evidence of the incident gathered from a school bus surveillance system.

Kelly’s 180-day suspension means he cannot attend any of the district’s three schools. This includes Mingus Union High School, the school’s academy and the school’s online program.

During the suspension, Kelly is not permitted on district property or at on- or off-district functions, such as sporting events, prom or graduation.

Though board members considered expulsion and suspension in their deliberation, Kelly’s permanent removal was “tough to consider,” board member Anthony Lozano said.

“At first I wrote down expulsion,” said Lozano. “But I’m totally against ruining anyone’s dreams. Every student has dreams and goals.”

Before the board rendered its decision, Mingus Union board member Lori Drake told the 18-year-old Kelly that though she saw “no remorse” in him, she does see a “bright future” in the young man who wants to become a professional baseball player.

“Your parents have said wonderful things about you [today],” Drake said. “That’s what this is all about.”

School Board President Anita Glazar told Kelly that by watching his “body language,” she “didn’t feel there was any remorse, like we were a joke,”

“You’re 18, you’re accountable for what you do,” Glazar told Kelly.

In November, Kelly signed a Letter of Intent to play baseball at the University of New Mexico.

“We’re hoping the best for Tyler,” Hargrove said. “We want the best for all of our kids.”

Kelly and his parents declined comment to The Verde Independent.

Sgt. Monica Kuhlt, spokesperson for the Cottonwood Police Department, said Thursday her agency is investigating the reported assault that occurred on a Mingus Union High School bus.

“We are working with high school staff to confirm jurisdiction and that will determine the direction of this investigation,” she said.

— Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

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lerie 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The story doesn't say what happened, unless I missed it. Hargrove says he doesn't know if it even happened but then it says someone had video evidence of it happening, I'm not sure what to believe here.

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aznative 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm a parent of MUHS students and I spoke w many students regarding this incident. First off, there were 5 coaches on the bus and not once did a coach advise the boys that their horseplay was not ok. Where were all of the coaches that were actually on the bus? The only coach at the meeting wasn't even there that night. Not one of the kids involved felt harassed or "hazed" in any way. That is their word, they all wrote letters to the board stating so. The horseplay that occurred was just that, all lifelong friends, boys being roudy boys. How is it ok for the school to label it that way? This all the school's way of not accepting responsibility. The board was not fair in their decision, it was obvious they already had their minds made. The way the meeting went was very questionable from the members consulting in the hallway w the school's attorney to how they allowed the attorney to run the show. The board is supposed to be impartial, for the students; they are separate from the school. It seems as if the MUHS admin is targeting some specific kids..

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wordfromthewise12 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I attended the open board meeting at Mingus High School and was very sad and alarmed to find that the six adults , five of whom are coaches. leaders and mentors were not present to defend these children, yes children, they obviously were not too concerned about the horse play on the bus that took place or they would have attended this meeting, after all they are adults , coaches, leaders and mentors. Let it go maybe, yes, tell them to stop or stop the bus, maybe warn them, always a solution , maybe it wasn't as serious as some people tend to think, always has to be a drama king or queen? Who knows. At the board meeting I witnessed several of the board members slaying the sword with no regard for the kids emotional trauma, intimidation and personal attack by the school attorney and one of the board members, this is not a good display of leadership. I am very ashamed for the the acts of some of the adults who were and were not present. If any of you are guiltless cast the first stone, oh that's right, you already did.

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Silence_Dogood 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I am heartened by the fact that school administrators and the school board have taken firm and measured steps to sanction students who engage in harmful acts of hazing. It took the bus driver complaining to school administrators about the behavior of the students to prompt a review of the travel bus’s video system and the subsequent investigation. Lives should not be ruined as a result of this abhorrent behavior. Students don’t often consider the real ramifications to their behavior – the pain and anguish of the victim or the catastrophic legal consequences of the offender. But actions have consequences, and lessons must be learned. This behavior must to be rooted out. Students should not only hear about “Zero Tolerance”, but see “Zero Tolerance” carried out.

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wordfromthewise12 3 months, 3 weeks ago

The victims here are the students who were suspended period. get your facts in order.

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Silence_Dogood 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Fact: Tyler Kelly and other students were involved in sexually related hazing of another student and were suspended.

Bizarre Opinion: Tyler Kelly and the other perpetrators are "victims"?

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rocky12 3 months, 3 weeks ago

I was present at the board meeting and not one student had any complaints to justify the predetermined verdict of a very biased school board. They made it very clear that they would make an example of Tyler Kelly. So who is the example of what was done to Tyler, his class mates, and everyone before them when boys being boys initiate their under classmates? They say it is not their schools culture when in fact this behavior has gone on if front of every Mingus coach for decades past. Not one of the coaches from this incident were present at the meeting and why was a previous coach there who was not present during this incident? (The board really put their ducks in a row) If something was really going on they why didn't the coaches or at least on coach intervene? And if this was not enough the board has requested a police investigation to further drive a steak into the hearts of these students. The board has definitely opened themselves up to a real investigation by a court of law. It will be very interesting to see what the real truth is.

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commontater64 3 months, 3 weeks ago

Wait... the suspended students are the "victims" here? Did wordfromthewise12 miss that one of the suspended 'kids' was in fact 18? And as the article said showed no remorse. Has WFTW12 followed the history of some of these 'kids'? Or is WFTW12 perhaps a relative of the 'kids'?

Then rocky12 thinks hazing is just kids being kids and wants to blame the coaches? Maybe the coaches have been dealing with this directly for years and have had their hands tied by an inept administration that has not dealt with the issue and allowed it to fester. Just maybe the coaches were directed not to attend or were just plain embarrassed by the whole fiasco.

If there are any real victims here it is the other students, the pride and honor of the school, the heart and soul of the coaches that dedicate their time and heart to coaching these teams and the community that has been betrayed by the inept leadership that our board has selected. It's all right here between the lines right in this paper for years and years.

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wordfromthewise12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

You are entitled to your own personal opinion, that's all it amounts to.

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commontater64 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Aren't we all though? As they say, we can have our own opinions but having our own facts is not an optional thing.

Fact- The board/administration are doing nobody any good but themselves and making the community the real victims in the end.

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MrsJones 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Pride and Honor of the school? You have got to be kidding me! This stuff has been going on at Mingus for years, now that it is out there the school is finally made to deal with it and yes they are trying to cover their own butts. The coaches did nothing not even a warning to settle down that should tell you something right there, the coaches are responsible for their students/players if they can't keep order on the bus then maybe they shouldn't be in their positions. And the boys that this happened to were not harmed and they even stated that. So yes they are making an example out of those boys specifically Tyler Kelly! commontater64 it wasn't hazing it was and initiation there is a difference, maybe you should quit judging until you know all of the facts and the facts are: Coaches didn't do their job, the school is trying to cover their own behinds at the expense of these boys, and the school board is corrupt!

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commontater64 3 months, 1 week ago

Not kidding... some of us in the community are proud and honored to be graduates and have graduates from Mingus.

So- if as you claim this has been happening for years why did you never report it? You are stating that you know the 'facts'- is it a fact that you were fine with the hazing/initiation/sexual assault prior to this?

Many people seem to be eager to discount this as 'horseplay' or just what kids do... and just as eager to defend those who did it and go so far as to call them the victims in this mess. How many times do the 'victims' have to act out on other students, get ejected from games, curse out and disrespect game officials and coaches before they stop being the victims and become the ones responsible for what they did?

This new 'my kid can do no wrong' culture is in large part to blame for this. So many parents are so invested in their 'little can do no wrong angels' sporting ability being their ticket to college that they are all to willing to ignore an amazing amount of reckless behavior. And every time one of you argues the point you only prove it even further.

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commontater64 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Aside from all else it seems we at least agree that the board and the administration are the ones 'dropping the ball' here. As the saying goes- a fish rots from the head down... the board and administration are the head of this rotting fish.

As far as judging and facts- we could all stand to follow that advice a bit more as well as not assuming what facts are known/unknown. There is history there if folks are willing to see it.

The main fact nobody can deny is that the students sign a code of conduct and if they broke that code then who is to blame? Many here seem to think everyone but them.

We get it- every parents kid can do no wrong in their eyes and that may be the root of the whole issue if we are really honest with ourselves.

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centurion75 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The hazers are lucky they are not in jail. They got off easy. It's true the coaches did not anything with the out of control bus, but that does not excuse the behavior of the hazers. Admin was all over this case quickly and took appropriate action. IMO the board let them off easy.

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commontater64 3 months, 2 weeks ago

We are right with you until the part about the Admin. taking quick action... Had they taken quick and appropriate action in previous cases then this would have had far less of a chance to occur this time around. Why do you think the action over this incident was so swift... They are trying to distract you from their obvious past failures with a shiny object.

And again- the students and athletic programs are paying the price while incompetent members of the admin are getting kudo's and promotions. So sad to see such a solid program derailed by ineptitude.

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wordfromthewise12 3 months, 2 weeks ago

its not about luck, anyone with any common sense can see that this kind of horse play has been going on for a very long time and has been accepted by the adults on the bus for obvious reasons , not to mention that they all knew the cameras were rolling, come on, wake up sleepy heads

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