An attorney for three former Clover High School football players said the teens were unfairly suspended during a hazing investigation, and he threatened to sue if they are not allowed to finish their senior year on campus.
Reggie Lloyd, the attorney, said Clover Superintendent Marc Sosne was wrong when he said the three students played a larger role in three locker room incidents in September. Sosne had described the students' behavior as "unacceptable" and said they would finish their senior year in an alternative program.
"We actually deny that they do have a higher involvement," Lloyd said. "They were witnesses at best."
Lloyd said he's giving the district a chance to reinstate the students, or "our intent is to make the school district, principal, the school, coaches and the alleged victim all pay a price."
The school district issued a statement Monday saying appropriate punishments were given to all students involved.
Lloyd's comments, in an interview with The Herald, further complicate perceptions of what happened on three September days in the varsity football locker room.
The controversy has gripped Clover's school community since early October, when 13 players were suspended amid allegations that three players - ages 14, 15, and 17 - were hazed. The mother of one alleged victim said her 11th-grade son was held down by older players who threatened to sexually assault him with a broomstick.
The York County Sheriff's Office has said its investigation determined a broom was present in one of the three incidents, but no one threatened to assault anybody.
All three incidents happened near the end of the school day when players were unsupervised and preparing for practice.
Ten of the suspended players were eventually allowed to return to school.
On Thursday, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett dismissed the incidents as mere "horseplay." A Sheriff's Office investigation determined no crime was committed, according to Brackett and Sheriff Bruce Bryant. Brackett said the allegations were "a renegade rumor that was running up and down the halls, wreaking havoc on the truth."
On Friday, a Lexington lawyer representing two of the three alleged victims told The Herald he took issue with Brackett's comments. Attorney Richard Breibart said Clover High football players forced his teenage clients into the locker room, pulled their clothes off and threatened to sexually assault them with a broom.
In one case, he said, a player tapped the broom handle near his client's naked body. In the other, he said, the broom handle touched an unspecified area of the student's body.
'Lack of supervision'
On Monday, Lloyd, the suspended students' attorney, disputed Breibart's version of what happened.
During the Sept. 19 incident, one of his clients did pick up a broom that was in the locker room but didn't do anything with it, said Lloyd, the former head of the State Law Enforcement Division who has established a Rock Hill law practice.
"We would say he approached the crowd," he said. But "we're not even sure that the alleged victim could see the broom."
Lloyd said his clients "were not among the group that was grabbing kids and dragging them into the shower area."
Lloyd said he agrees with the sheriff's findings, which show the Sept. 19 victim had antagonized players "in good fun" by "teasing" and "poking fun."
Junior varsity players made a game of darting into the varsity boys locker room and joking around with older players, Lloyd said. At one point, he said, one of his clients told a younger player to leave.
He faults Clover High for not having an adult in the locker room to supervise.
"What was really going on is there was never any real adult," Lloyd said. "How these coaches escape any real responsibility for this lack of supervision is ridiculous.
"These kids are paying the price for what's an overblown rumor."
He said school leaders' response to the rumor was an "overreaction" based on their investigation, which was "shoddy and negligent at best."
Clover schools spokesman Mychal Frost declined to respond to questions about whether Clover High had adequate supervision or whether any adults have been punished since the incidents.
Frost released a statement saying that while the district cannot respond to specific questions, it stands behind the sheriff's investigation.
"We have reviewed the report and agree things did happen and contend that school rules and policies have been broken.
"The criminal investigation completed last week by the York County Sheriff's (Office) cleared students of alleged criminal acts, but that does not imply school rules and policies were not broken. As a result, appropriate punishments for all students involved have been made. The school, however, continues to evaluate dispositions of students implicated as additional information becomes available."