The mother of a Los Osos High School junior varsity football player who can be seen in a video being placed in a chokehold and whipped by a belt by two varsity players in a locker room is outraged that school officials deemed the incident as "horseplay."
The mother, Cassondra C., who asked that her last name not be used to spare her 16-year-old son from bullying at the Rancho Cucamonga school, says a community member showed her the video of the Oct. 11 hazing incident that had circulated on YouTube and other social media sites. The video has since been taken down.
One of the two senior varsity players in the video is the son of a Los Osos administrator, according to Cassondra. She said she plans to press charges against the other senior, an 18-year-old who had her son, a junior, in a chokehold in the video. An email to the administrator was not returned.
In the blurred video, a member of the varsity football team uses a chokehold to restrain the JV player who is seated on a bench and crying for help, while a shirtless varsity player walks over and hits the JV player with a belt. Cassondra said the administrator's son was the one who used the belt in the video.
The video shows at least two other students sitting next to the JV player but they did not intervene. No adults, coaches or teachers were seen in the video.
“I’ve been crying and sick to my stomach ever since I saw that video,” said Cassondra, adding that incident took place after a weightlifting session before school started. “It’s so distressing to see your son assaulted like that and for no one to take this seriously.”
Cassondra said she has filed a complaint with the Chaffey Joint Union High School District and is asking for a full investigation. She said she also filed an incident report with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Cassondra said she didn’t become aware of what happened until a week after the incident. She said she first saw the video nine days after it had been seen on Instagram by students at Los Osos.
By then, she said her son told her that he and others in the video were already disciplined “for horseplay.” Her son, for instance, was not allowed to participate in the team’s next JV football game on Oct. 19.
However, it is unknown what the punishment was for the other two varsity players involved in the incident. Los Osos (6-4) earned the No. 2 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 9 playoffs and has a first-round game Friday against South Pasadena (9-1).
A call and an email to the Chaffey Joint Union High School District and to Supt. Mathew Holton were not returned.
Holton told the Southern California News Group that everyone involved in the video, as well as coaches, identified the incident as “horseplay.” He added, however, “nonetheless, the school and district view this incident as hazing — which we do not tolerate — and have taken appropriate action to discipline those involved.”
Cassondra said she was angered that all involved were still on campus.
“The district and the school need to make a statement against bullying,” she said. “My son was held down and [whipped] and no one was expelled or suspended.”
Cassondra said she’s kept her son home and will speak with district and school officials to see if he can complete the rest of the semester at home. She said she feared for her son’s safety and wanted to avoid a situation where he would be “bullied mercilessly” when he returned.
Cassondra said she was against transferring her son to another school.
When asked why her son didn’t inform her about the incident earlier, Cassondra said it was due to retribution.
“This is why I’m talking about this because my son was ashamed and it was a humiliating situation,” she said. “He didn’t want to tell anyone because he thought he might lose playing time. That’s not the way it should be.”
The incident also disturbed the 16-year-old's father, Lonnie.
He and Cassondra grew up in South Los Angeles, with Lonnie having played football and basketball at Inglewood High School. He said he and Cassondra worked and saved for years to move their family from South Los Angeles to “a safer environment.”
“We wanted our children to attend better schools, to have their own room and live in a nice environment,” Lonnie said. “We’ve been at Los Osos for two years and to have this happen is disappointing and heartbreaking.”
Lonnie said his son started playing football two years earlier and liked the sport. He modeled his play after NFL Pro Bowl wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill.
“This was supposed to be about him building his physique, loving the game and making friends,” Lonnie said. “It’s frustrating that all that may be over.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.