MCPS officials name new Damascus athletic director in wake of hazing scandal

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Alex Silber

By Ben Waldman

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MCPS officials named former Clarksburg High School assistant athletic director Clifford Elgin Damascus High School’s new athletic director May 30. The switch in athletic directors occurred as a result of a hazing incident that led to attempted rape charges for six junior varsity football players.

MCPS officials fired the former Damascus junior varsity football staff and athletic director for failing to appropriately supervise the players; the staff were absent from the locker room when the assault took place.

Their absence violates MCPS’s protocol that mandates adult supervision for all extracurricular activities. MCPS has placed the football team on probation and MCPS central services officials will “closely monitor” the team to ensure it complies with all safety guidelines in the future, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said.

“If they’re in there by themselves, security should kick them out,” debate team sponsor Colin O’Brien said. “It’s not always followed, but technically students should be supervised at all times.”

Elgin was hired a few weeks after Damascus principal Casey Crouse resigned May 7. According to the Washington Post, she and other Damascus administrators waited over 12 hours to inform the police of the credible allegations of sexual assault.

Crouse will still work in MCPS; officials have transferred her to the county’s central office human resources department.

“This decision has been extremely difficult for me and was not one I took lightly,” Crouse said in an email to Damascus parents May 7. “The horrific incident of October 31 has demanded significant attention from school and system leadership and has drawn ongoing negative media attention. In order for Damascus High School to move forward, it will require new school leadership.”

MCPS policy states that teachers and coaches must report inappropriate behavior to the authorities immediately.

“We go through compliance training where we go over policies and procedures every year,” junior varsity football coach Bill Toth said. “Every MCPS employee needs to go through that before they can teach or coach. That happens every summer, prior to the beginning of the school year.”

The scandal represented a failure of adult leadership at Damascus, and coaches and administrators received appropriate consequences, varsity football player Brody Loghman said.

“There’s no way the coaches didn’t know about this,” Loghman said. “The Whitman football team was shocked that the adults and the team leaders would let this happen.”

English teacher Melissa Carr, whose daughter is a freshman at Damascus, believes that the scandal has tainted Damascus’s reputation around the county.

“Damascus is now known as ‘the broomstick school,’” Carr said. “It’s never going to go away, just because of a few awful kids. Most of the kids who go to Damascus are good kids, just like the kids who go to Whitman. It’s a shame that this has tarnished them.”

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