The small town of La Vernia has a population of 1,200 people, a police
 force of six full-time officers and, like most of Texas, a religious-like
 investment in its high School football team.
Which is why the expanding investigation into disturbing allegations of
 sexually violent hazing within the school’s male athletic teams, including
 football, baseball and basketball, has rattled the tightknit community 
located 30 miles east of San Antonio.
Since the end of March, 13 students — seven juveniles and six adults —
 have been arrested in connection with the hazing scandal, a lawsuit 
has been filed against La Vernia High School and at least 10 victims
 have come forward with stories of athletic team “initiations” that
 included sodomy and sexual abuse with Coke and Gatorade bottles,
 flashlights and the threaded end of a carbon dioxide tank.
La Vernia police chief Bruce Ritchey has called the scandal a “black eye”
 on the community. The Texas Rangers took over the investigation
 earlier this month to ensure impartiality since many of the victims, 
perpetrators and members of law enforcement know each other 
intimately, reported the San Antonio Express-News.
The State Attorney General’s office will prosecute the cases.
“Hazing is done in high schools and colleges all over the country,” 
Ritchey told the Express-News. “But not to this point.”
And the public controversy — and division — surrounding the
 investigation only escalated this week when three 18-year-old senior 
basketball players were arrested and charged with second-degree 
felony sexual assault for allegedly sodomizing a 15-year-old with 
a flashlight at a home in February near La Vernia, reported local
 news outlets.
The arrests, which raised the total to 13, came just one day after 
the parents of one alleged victim filed a federal civil rights lawsuit 
against the La Vernia Independent School District and officials for
 enabling a “persistent ‘rape culture’” within the football program.
“The teams’ coaches have sanctioned these rituals, while other 
school officials, including La Vernia ISD and the School’s principal, 
athletic director, and coaches, turned a blind eye toward the abuse, 
even after the abuse was reported to them,” the lawsuit alleges.
 “Indeed, the Plaintiffs are but a fraction of the students who have 
been physically and sexually assaulted pursuant to these sadistic 
hazing rituals which include rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual 
penetration and sexual abuse.”
The 15-year-old, identified only as Child Doe, was a freshman
 junior varsity football player in the fall of 2015 when, right before
 the playoffs, he was promoted to the varsity squad, according 
to the lawsuit.
Upperclassmen teammates spoke of an “initiation,” and one 
senior football player told him to “get ready.”
The first hazing incident, the suit alleges, occurred in the locker room
 before the team’s first playoff game in a border city three and a 
half hours south of La Vernia.
In the locker room, according to the lawsuit, Child Doe was
 “attacked” by three upperclassmen, shoved face down on the
 floor and pinned in place. Child Doe struggled to get away, but
 the players allegedly sexually assaulted the young player with a
 Gatorade G2 bottle.
The following week, school was abuzz with news of the incident 
and Child Doe claims that other players and classmates asked him 
what happened. In class, a teacher who had overheard the student
 talking about the assault said “it was wrong” and told the kids to 
“cut it out,” the lawsuit says.
The teacher said she sent an email to the then-athletic director,
 Brandon Layne, and that the incident would “be taken care of.” 
She repeated the same words to Child Doe, the lawsuit claims,
 then said she was sorry and that he “won’t have to worry about it.”
That same day at football practice, the junior varsity team was 
dismissed from the locker room so Layne could speak with the 
varsity players. He was aware of the “initiations,” Layne said, according
 to the suit, and they needed to stop.
“You won’t be able to get a job, no girl will want to date you and
 you could go to prison,” Layne said, according to the suit. “Cut it out.”
But the assault was not reported to authorities, the lawsuit claims,
 and instead, the school’s solution was to require that a football
 coach, Keith Barnes, be present in the locker room at all times
 before practice.
Two weeks later, though, the 15-year-old was allegedly attacked
 again in the locker room, this time by two varsity players who
 shoved him to the ground then punched and fondled him. Two
 days later came another alleged attack, before practice, from
 three varsity players who pushed him to the ground but nothing
 else, the lawsuit claims.
After the 2015-16 season ended, the school hired a new athletic
 director and head football coach.
But the hazing continued into the player’s sophomore year when
 he was once again allegedly attacked in the locker room during 
two-a-day varsity practices. He had just finished showering and
 was at his locker, the lawsuit claims, when two senior players
 held him down and a third player sexually assaulted him 
with a cardboard tube from a coat hanger.
They laughed, the lawsuit alleges, and told Child Doe “new year,
 new initiation.”
Two other hazing incidents occurred during the 2016-17 season;
 one was in the locker room and the second in the weight room, 
when a senior flipped Child Doe over and threatened to sexually
 assault Child Doe with a metal pipe he was holding.
The senior allegedly dropped the pipe when a coach walked in.
The lawsuit lists the school district, superintendent, building principal, 
athletic directors and football coaches as defendants. The parents, 
listed only as John and Jane Doe, and a 15-year-old football player, 
identified as Child Doe, seek damages for “medical expenses” and 
“physical pain and mental anguish.”
In a statement to the Express-News, La Vernia ISD Superintendent
 Jose Moreno said the district learned of the lawsuit through 
the news and “will continue working closely with the authorities as 
they conduct a full and thorough investigation.”
Moreno said new school protocols are being adopted so students
 can more easily report abuse, according to the Associated Press.
J.K. Ivey, the attorney who brought the lawsuit, said in a news release
 that the legal action was the “first step in an effort to peel back the
 covers on a long and sordid history of neglect, misconduct and abuse”
 at La Vernia that may have existed for more than a decade and affected 
dozens of children.
“I think everyone was shocked and horrified by the events,” Ivey told 
the Express-News. “The fact of the matter is this shouldn’t have
 happened in the first place.”