‘It has not stopped’: Mom of former Mohawk High School student speaks about football team harassment

LAWRENCE COUNTY, Pa. — The mother of a former Mohawk High School student reached out to Channel 11 about the harassment her son endured while on the football and track teams. She says in light of the recent district attorney’s investigation into allegations of hazing among football players, she feels this shows a pattern of abuse and humiliation.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE >> 3 students charged after hazing allegations at Mohawk Area High School, football program to resume

In 2011, five 14-year-old boys went to trial and pleaded guilty to harassing, conspiring to harass, annoy or alarm a victim in her son’s case. She tells Channel 11 that her son has been severely affected for life and to this day, still won’t talk about some of the details of what happened to him.

“There were times he talked to me about wanting to kill himself,” Andi Lee-Marnicio said about her son. “That’s how bad it got.”

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She says once the recent investigation surfaced, her son relived the trauma from high school all over again.

“He said, ‘Mom, I feel so sorry for those kids because it will affect them forever,” Lee-Marnicio added. “He said, ‘Look what it has done to me.’”

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In her son’s case, there was cellphone video showing some of the abuse involving the underage teens.

“They put his head in a toilet and flushed it. They kicked him, they beat him with a metal garbage can. They couldn’t get him to lick the urinal, so they forced him to lick the floor,” Lee-Marnicio said. “It has not stopped since my child was there.”

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She says she’s sickened the football program can continue, given the recent case which resulted in charges Friday against three football players for crimes involving five victims.

The Lawrence County district attorney’s office says since those charged are underage, they will not be named and they’ll go through the juvenile system. Lee-Marnicio fears this culture will continue without harsher consequences.

“It seems like these kids are getting away with murder. They’re getting a slap on the wrist. The next year it will happen again.”

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In the 2011 case, Lee-Marnicio says the juveniles had to pay a fine and complete community service, but they were still allowed to play on the sports teams.

The Mohawk School District released a statement about the district attorney’s findings, adding what occurred was not part of an institutional practice and has not occurred previously.

Here’s the full statement from the school district:

“September 2, 2022

On August 17, the Mohawk School District Administration was made aware of allegations of hazing involving the High School Varsity Football team. Upon learning of the allegations, the Administration immediately contacted the County Children and Youth Service and the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office. Both the District and the DA’s office began investigations which involved questioning the team and its coaches to determine what had occurred. After less than two weeks, both the District and the DA’s Office completed their investigations and this afternoon the DA’s Office is releasing a summary letter concerning its findings and the results of the investigation. While some have felt that the investigation took too long, the District believes that the primary concerns of ensuring student safety and determining what really happened justified the time and attention involved.

“Notably, the District Attorney has found that the conduct which occurred was not part of an institutional practice and had not occurred previously. Further, the conduct was limited to a small number of individual players and no adults had preexisting knowledge of any hazing. Furthermore, the District Attorney has specifically found that many of the rumors which have been circulating are unfounded. While the incident is disturbing and unacceptable, it is not a part of the District’s culture and appropriate parties have been and will be held accountable.

“The District has taken steps to address issues both with students who were involved in the incident and to all players moving forward. Counseling, support and other resources have been offered to students and the NCAA anti-hazing assembly was held on August 31, with all members of the football team invited to attend. The District understands that it will be a lengthy process to heal from these events, but we have begun to take the necessary steps in making sure this event is addressed and never occurs again.

“Today, the District has announced to the team and the District community that we believe it is safe and appropriate to resume Varsity Football operations. The District is presently making arrangements to field a team and resume competition. The District is appreciative for the community’s patience, support and commitment to student health and safety while this process has been proceeding.”

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