EDITOR’S NOTE: The headline of this story was changed to clarify that coach Chris Eckert is on administrative leave pending an investigation and was not suspended.
The Cromwell/Portland co-operative football team practiced Wednesday without head coach Chris Eckert.
Eckert has been placed on paid administrative leave while the allegation of hazing involving Cromwell High School and Portland High School football players is under investigation by the Cromwell High School administration, the Cromwell Police Department and the state Department of Children and Families, according to reports from NBC Connecticut and WFSB news.
Cromwell Police confirmed there is an ongoing criminal investigation in regards to the incident being conducted by SRO Jason Tolton.
Tolton said the probe was initiated Aug. 26 after a parent complaint Aug. 25.
Eckert has been the Cromwell football coach since 2011. Portland joined Cromwell to form a new co-op team in May.
NBC Connecticut reported that one juvenile has been arrested in connection with the case.
Citing accounts from unnamed parents, that station says the hazing happened in the boys’ locker room, where one student beat freshmen with a belt while other students covered the windows and turned off lights.
Cromwell Superintendent of Schools Paula M. Talty said school officials only recently learned of the allegations and that district officials are cooperating fully with the investigation. Talty was unable to comment on any personnel matters pending the result of the investigation.
Talty declined to give details about the nature of the hazing but said the district does not tolerate harassment of students.
In a letter to his staff and parents, Portland Superintendent of Schools Philip B. O’Reilly said the allegations involve several underclassmen from both Portland and Cromwell who may have been hazing targets. O’Reilly stated that Portland Principal Kathyrn Lawson and Athletic Director Chris Serra have begun to conduct their own investigation with Portland’s football athletes.
The team opens its season at Coginchuag on Saturday, Sept. 12.
Eckert came to the area from Wilby High School in Waterbury and played and coached at Southern Connecticut State University prior to that.