By J.P. Hoornstra
SB Sun Staff writer
An act of hazing by upperclassmen on the Miller High School football team last Thursday has resulted in the possible suspension of at least 10 varsity players by the school. The incident included “verbal and physical harassment,” according to a statement released by Fontana Unified School District Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks. No students reported being seriously injured.
On Wednesday, sophomore Dillon Berkeley revealed a deep bruise on his right bicep – the result, he said, of being thrown to the ground by several upperclassmen, then being kicked and punched without the benefit of protective padding.
Berkeley claimed to be among several first-year varsity players on the receiving end of the hazing, and the exact number of players who participated is unclear.
His mother, Laura Berkeley, said 23 players who participated in the hazing were suspended for three days on Tuesday. Olsen-Binks, citing the students’ privacy, declined to confirm how long or if the participants were suspended, but estimated the number of players disciplined was 10 to 15.
Multiple messages left for Miller head coach Jeff Strycula on Wednesday were not returned. Several varsity players said they weren’t aware of any hazing and Miller athletic director Dwight Berry neither would confirm nor deny the incident.
But later in the afternoon, Olsen-Binks issued a 202-word statement which indicated Miller Principal Heather Griggs had been alerted to the incident by parents on Monday.
“We are going to conduct a thorough investigation,” Olsen-Binks said.
There also are allegations of a history of hazing in the program. Jeff Steinberg, who left in May to become head coach at Corona Santiago, was head coach at Miller from 2006-08.
Laura Berkeley said her son escaped a similar incident that took place last year while Steinberg was present.
“The coach just laughed and turned his back,” Laura Berkeley said, “but this year the coach wasn’t there.”
Steinberg said he was unaware of any such incident.
“There have never been any hazing incidents while I’ve been there,” he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Olsen-Binks said this is the first hazing-related complaint she has received in the Fontana district. Prior to being named superintendent this year, she worked directly with parents in the district for six years.
“I have no reason to believe that (Steinberg) knew,” Olsen-Binks said. “I would be very disappointed if he did.”
Griggs has invited players, coaches and team parents to a meeting today to discuss the incident and its consequences.