Charges filed in Barnesville High School hazing, family to file suit

ROBERT A. DEFRANK
The Times Leader

BARNESVILLE — Two people are facing criminal charges in connection with an Oct. 1 hazing incident in Barnesville.

According to Belmont County Western Division Court, charges of hazing have been filed against Jayden Lucas, 18, of Barnesville for his alleged participation in the incident. His arraignment was set for Oct. 28. The Barnesville Police Department also expects the same charges to be filed against a juvenile whose case would be handled by the county’s Juvenile and Probate Court.

The charge is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Ohio Revised Code currently classifies hazing as a second-degree misdemeanor, but this took effect after the incident occurred in the back parking lot of Barnesville High School.

In an apparent initiation of a freshman football player, reports indicate the teenager was tied to a pole while numerous other juveniles were at the site. A truck was backed near the freshman, and the alleged perpetrators implied a strap would be attached to him so the truck could drag him. An unloaded crossbow also was allegedly pointed at his head. The hazing reportedly ended when some of the participants decided it was going too far, untied the freshman and called his parents.

Belmont County Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan previously said his office expected to charge the participant who drove the truck and the one with the crossbow. Lucas and the accused juvenile’s alleged roles in the incident were not specified Thursday.

The teen victim’s father said he was extremely dissatisfied with the low-level misdemeanor charges. In a series of phone interviews and text messages, he said he believes the appropriate charges would include attempted murder, gross negligence, attempted assault with a deadly weapon, brandishing a weapon and kidnapping. He believes incarceration is warranted for the two main participants, along with charges for everyone present who did nothing to stop the actions of the accused.

He added that his son had no idea anything of the kind would occur when he was hanging out with the others.

The father said he is retaining a lawyer and intends to pursue legal action against the school district. He said he has been in contact with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

Meanwhile, the family has also started the Facebook page “Brnesville Enough” — without an A in Barnesville — to raise awareness of hazing and bullying in the Barnesville area. More than 240 people have “friended” the profile since its launch on Wednesday. The father said such incidents should not be “swept under the rug.”

Flanagan, however, said the charges are appropriate for the case.

“We will pursue the charges that are most appropriate for the facts that have been uncovered during the investigation. We cannot be swayed by emotion,” Flanagan said. “We choose the statutes in accord with the investigation, and we come to our decision with an open mind. We can’t file a charge based on outrage. We have to file the charge that is appropriate for the fact pattern that is presented to us. The levels of criminal offenses are dictated by the legislature, not us.”

Barnesville Exempted Village School District Superintendent Angela Hannahs said because the investigation is ongoing, she could not comment on possible penalties for participants in the incident.

“There was an incident that occurred on Oct. 1. The investigation is ongoing at this time and the district is following board policy in relation to discipline of the students,” she said. “I’m not aware of anything that happened to this. … I have spoken to some of the parents whose children were involved.”

The district’s hazing and bullying policy can be found online at bevsd.org. It states “permission, consent or assumption of risk by an individual subjected to hazing … does not lessen the prohibition contained in this policy.” The policy specifies disciplinary penalties including suspension and expulsion.