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Protests at Vista High School over student hazing video; Friday football game forfeited

Video showed football players assaulting a student. Sheriff says no sexual assault occurred.

VISTA, Calif. — About 100 protesters, both students and parents, gathered at Vista High School on Wednesday night.  

They called for justice and accountability in the wake of a video posted on social media, showing a teenage student getting assaulted inside the school’s locker room.

On Thursday CBS 8 confirmed that the Friday night football game between Vista High School and Poway High School has been forfeited by Vista. 

The one-minute video appeared to show a hazing incident by Vista High School football players targeting a younger, teenage boy.

The Vista Sheriff’s department has seen the video. They are investigating the incident for possible criminal charges.

The sheriff's department put out a statement saying detectives had spoken to the 14-year-old victim, his mother, students, parents and faculty.

The statement said sheriffs received reports of two incidents, one on August 31 and another on September 1.

“It was determined from the investigation that a sexual assault did not happen.  A video of the incident was provided to the detectives. It shows a teenage boy being forcefully pushed to the ground. The boy was not hurt and did not require medical attention,” the statement said.

In the video, the teenage victim is carried into a locker room and pushed to the ground by other students. 

One of the students is seen holding what appears to be a wooden handle or stick. Later, the teen victim can be seen on the ground pulling at his shorts.

Those factors led the parents to believe the boy was assaulted with the wooden handle. Protests erupted at the school after the video went viral on social media, with parents calling for accountability.

“We put a lot of this on the head football coach. He has very little interaction with the things that happen on the field, off the field, with the kids.  If you look at the video there are quite a few kids in that locker room. And, it is so painful to hear the shrills from the little kid,” said one Vista High School father.

WARNING: This video below contains images of signs with foul language

The Varsity head football coach, David Bottom, has been put on leave “until the investigation is complete,” according to a September 13 statement, put out by the Vista Unified School District.

There is no indication the coach – or any member of the school's faculty – were in the locker room at the time of the incident. 

Bottom told CBS 8 he is not allowed to comment on the incident.

“The school administration completed its investigation of the incident reported by a courageous student, which confirmed players engaged in highly inappropriate conduct. The conduct did not involve sexual assault. To be clear, the reporting student’s allegations did not include sexual assault; however, we did investigate that possibility,” the school district’s statement said.

The district's statement did not indicate whether the incident was investigated as an attempted sexual assault. 

Levon Demirdjian, a former student, says he went through a similar experience and is outraged that it could happen again.

"I was sexually assaulted in both middle school and high school and when I reported it the school, they did absolutely nothing about it. Or if they did take action, it wasn’t enough. When I see something like this, it angers me cause I'm realizing it’s going to be the same thing that happened to me and I don’t want to see that happen again," said Demirdjian.

Lupe Trejo's son recently graduated from Vista High school but says when he was a freshman at vista high, he too, knew of a student who was assaulted.

She says at first she didn’t want to believe her son when he told her, until she found out it happened again, several years later.

"It’s obviously a hazing that goes on every year. How it can it be identical? I just want everybody to know it’s not a ‘one-time-thing,'" said Trejo.

Trejo is one of the many parents who showed up to demand the district take stricter action against those responsible and put an end to the misconduct.

CBS 8 contacted the family of one of the football players allegedly involved in the incident. The player is a minor, so he is not being identified.

An attorney representing the family, Brandon Naidu, told CBS 8 the family has received death threats and may have to move out of their home, after the family's address was posted on social media.

WATCH RELATED: Poway Unified School District forced to send students home early due to AC issues (September 2022)

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