SOUTH RIDING, Va. - The Tuscarora High School football team was back on the field amid an investigation into sexual assault allegations involving some of its players.
It comes as the school defended its decision to resume practices and play Friday night's away game as scheduled. Despite calls from others to cancel the game, Tuscarora hit the field against Freedom High School.
School officials say this was an isolated incident that only involved a small number of students, which is why they said it would be unfair to penalize other students for the alleged actions of just a few.
A dark cloud has been hanging over Tuscarora's football team ever since the allegations first surfaced. According to the Loudoun Times, a football player was held down by other players and sexually assaulted in the locker room after practice.
The incident reportedly happened on Oct. 1, but the Leesburg Police Department says it wasn’t reported to them until Oct. 5th when the high school says it first learned about the allegations and contacted police.
Police are remaining tight-lipped about the investigation. However, investigators did say they interviewed several students this past week and have no more interviews to complete.
In its latest statement, Loudoun County Public Schools says no more than three students were involved and school officials are confident that students are safe and normal school activities can continue.
"Behaviors such as those alleged in this case, if true, will not be tolerated and will result in severe disciplinary consequences," said Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams.
"Out of sensitivity to those involved, and to the larger school community, we encourage everyone to refrain from speculation and from passing on the speculation of others.
Parents at Friday night’s game agreed and defended the school and its response to the accusations, saying they have no concerns about hazing or bullying at the school.
“It’s been tough for everyone – the school, the team, the students, the teachers, the coaches, everyone,“ said Mike Fitz, a parent of a sophomore starter on Tuscarora's football team. “It’s obviously a difficult situation, but we all support our kids and stand behind those, most of whom were not involved and had nothing to do with it themselves or are hearing a lot of bad things that are being talked about outside the incident.”
John Puterio’s daughter is a senior cheerleader at the school and he says the alleged incident is taking the focus away from other students and all of the good they are doing.
“It doesn’t concern me as a parent," he said. "I look at it as an isolated incident of one student. I know the culture of that school. I know the people at that school. I know the administration, the teachers and everybody there is there for the safety of the kids.”
It has been a tough week for Tuscarora High School. In fact, the cheerleading squad is also dealing with the death of their team mom, which is why students from Freedom High School wore all white Friday night to show their support.
Cheerleaders and football players from each team also linked arms and took the field together in a show of unity.