Lawsuit filed against Reed-Custer school district claims "culture of abuse" in football

Marney Simon
Staff Writer

A lawsuit has been filed against the Reed-Custer School District, stemming from allegations of hazing and abuse during the pre-season of Comet football in 2017.

On Nov. 28, Richard and Allison Brookman, parents of a former Reed-Custer High School student, filed a lawsuit in federal court, United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and damages, and alleges that the student’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights were violated, stating claims of “willful and wanton conduct, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The lawsuit lists the school district as a defendant, as well as former coach Mark Wolf, coach Mike Mathieu, teacher Butch Stafford, Principal Tim Ricketts, Assistant Principal Michael Smith, and Athletic Director Chuck Anderson.

The lawsuit alleges that when the Brookmans' son was an incoming freshman attending football camp in July 2017, he was “subjected to bullying, harassment and attempted sexual assaults as part of a culture of hazing and hazing rituals known by the Defendants.” The lawsuit claims that the teen was “victim of a vicious sexual assault on or about July 19, 2017 committed by students of Reed-Custer High School who were football players” and that the defendants “were aware of, or tacitly acknowledged, a culture of abuse, hazing, bullying and assault, which resulted in significant injury to” the student.

The couple took their son to the emergency room, and the Braidwood Police were brought in to investigate the claim.

The school district has issued the following public statement regarding the lawsuit:

On the evening of July 19, 2017, Reed-Custer CUSD 255 personnel were advised of an incident that occurred during a summer football camp earlier that evening. The incident involved a few athletes and occurred outside the football locker room. The incident was witnessed by numerous athletes. The coaching staff did not witness the incident as they were in the football locker room passing out and fitting equipment for participants in the camp. The District started a thorough investigation that same night. Those athletes involved in the incident were promptly disciplined in accordance with the District’s Athletic Code of Conduct. In addition, the Braidwood Police Department and Will County State’s Attorney investigated the incident and the School District cooperated in that investigation as permitted by federal and state laws. Those laws prohibit the District from publicly commenting directly on the specifics of any incident; however, Reed-Custer CUSD 255 is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all students so that they can succeed both academically and in extra-curricular arenas. The District has many proactive programs and practices in place that support this commitment. The details of these programs and practices are outlined in the District’s press release of November 13, 2018, which can be viewed here:

In an email to the Braidwood Journal, Superintendent Mark Mitchell said “We unequivocally deny the plaintiffs’ allegations that School District officials ‘were aware of, or tacitly acknowledged, a culture of abuse, hazing, bullying and assault’ toward the individual; that hazing has been ‘part of the culture of the Reed-Custer Football Team for years;’ and that ‘coaches have either sanctioned these rituals or turned a blind eye toward them.’ We intend to vigorously defend these baseless allegations and protect the reputation of our fine School District and its staff.”

Per the lawsuit, the Brookmans are seeking judgment “for money damages in excess of the jurisdictional amount, attorney’s fees, interest on any damages awarded, and costs incurred in bringing this action.”