Investigation continues into Viera High School football video. Will season start on time?

Less than a week after a lewd video of a hazing incident involving Viera High School football players came to light on social media, questions remain about the culture leading to the incident and what happens to players and the upcoming season from here.

Controversy has swirled since the video was posted over the weekend, with the clip showing players simulating sexual acts with one another and attempting to pull the pants off of one boy. The widely viewed and shared 41-second video, filmed in a locker room, sparked intense reaction in the Space Coast community, with some calling for the resignations of coaches and administrators and criminal charges against the teens, while others dismissed the actions as "horseplay."

On Sunday, Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Mark Rendell addressed the incident, saying the players involved had been suspended and that all Viera High football activities, both junior varsity and varsity, were on hold indefinitely. The head coach, Shane Staples, was suspended.

BCSO joins investigation: Brevard sheriff's office investigating Viera High football team hazing incident

While a closed-door Monday night meeting between players, their parents and the district went well, according to a district spokesperson, there's no final word yet on the punishment those involved in the video may face or the status of the team's upcoming season.

What was the initial response to the Viera High School football video?

Viera High School football players are pictured at a July 31 afternoon Hawks football practice before approaching storms arrived.
Viera High School football players are pictured at a July 31 afternoon Hawks football practice before approaching storms arrived.

The video showed multiple team members in Hawk Nation gear laughing and jostling players on the floor as they attempted to pull back the shorts from one boy. Some players appeared on top of students, thrusting and simulating sexual acts as what appeared to be condom packages were tossed on the floor. No adults were heard or seen in the video.

It's not clear when the incident took place, though in a Monday Facebook post, Sheriff Wayne Ivey said it possibly occurred on Aug. 14, adding that administrators did not become aware of the video until the evening of Aug. 16.

"The following morning ... the administration took immediate action to ensure the safety of the students who were targeted, address those responsible for the incident and review any failure of staff or policy, that could have prevented the incident from happening," Ivey said, though he did not specify what actions were taken.

The team did play in its scheduled jamboree at New Smyrna Beach on Friday. The Hawks played two quarters against Seabreeze and the host team. Viera is scheduled to play at South Fork High in Stuart on Friday, the first week of the 2023 regular season. Following games would be at Satellite on Sept. 1 and the home opener, Sept. 8 against Rockledge.

Longtime Titusville High coach Dale Mays was part of 1982 and ’83 state championships with the Terriers football team. It was typical of assistant coaches to be present in the locker room building relationships with the players, he said, adding that he’d “never dealt with anything like this.”

Team suspended: Viera High football team activities suspended after viral video; coach relieved of duties

Viera parents and football players meet

On Saturday, Viera High's principal, Heather LeGate, sent an email to school parents and guardians, saying she was aware of the incident but couldn't reveal many details, citing the Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act.

"Please rest assured that I am investigating the situation and following the discipline policy set forth by Brevard Public Schools," she said.

An unspecified number of students were suspended, while those not suspended were required to attend a parent-player team meeting at the school Monday night to work on improving team culture. Team members will also be required to take part in an anti-hazing program before activities may resume.

The parent-team meeting at Viera High was closed to the public. Russell Bruhn, spokesperson for the district, said it went well.

"Dr. Rendell was specific with his expectations for the football teams and all BPS student-athletes," Bruhn said. "We appreciate the engagement with the parents and the players."

West Shore Junior/Senior High School in Melbourne was set to hold a mandatory student-athlete meeting Tuesday during lunch. Bruhn said other schools may be holding similar meetings, but that the decision to do so was being made on a school level.

Will Viera High School football season start as scheduled?

It was not known Tuesday morning if or when Viera High might resume its football season. In Sunday's statement, Rendell say he was "confident a decision on the future of this year’s football season and the suspended players will be made soon."

Bruhn said the status of the program would be determined "at a later date."

Mays expressed concern about the impact putting the season on hold could have on players not involved in the hazing incident.

“I worry that you’ve got a lot of good kids on the football team, and every now and then a knucklehead causes a problem," he said. "I don’t want to see a lot of kids not be able to enjoy their senior year and not be able to play.”

In an interview with WESH 2 News, Brevard School Board Chair Matt Susin also brought up the large number of students who were not involved in the incident.

"I would ask that everybody understands that 99.9% of the program had nothing to do with this," he said. "You have to look at the cheerleaders, the band members and the away teams that have to play us."

Susin did not respond to multiple requests for comment from FLORIDA TODAY.

Will charges be filed in Viera High School football hazing video?

Viera High School football players are pictured at a July 31 afternoon Hawks football practice.
Viera High School football players are pictured at a July 31 afternoon Hawks football practice.

In his Monday Facebook post, Sheriff Wayne Ivey wrote that it would be up to State Attorney Phil Archer to decide if charges should be pursued.

Hazing and bullying are both addressed in Florida law. House Bill 193, known as the Chad Meredith Act, went into effect in 2005 and increased criminal offenses specific to hazing at the high school or college level. According to Florida State University, the bill outlines that hazing is a third-degree felony when a person intentionally or recklessly commits any act against another person who is a member or an applicant of a student organization and the hazing results in serious bodily harm or death. Hazing may be a first-degree misdemeanor when hazing creates a substantial risk of physical injury or death to a member or applicant of a student organization.

As for bullying, Florida Statute 1006.147, also known as The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, mandates that school districts must adopt an official policy prohibiting bullying and harassment of students and staff on school grounds, at school-sponsored events and through school computer networks.

Finch Walker is the education reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Walker at 321-290-4744 or fwalker@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @_finchwalker.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Viera High School hazing video: Football activities still on hold