Mater Dei to commission independent probe of its sports programs – Orange County Register

Mater Dei High School pledged to commission an investigation into the safety practices of its athletic programs by an independent firm in the wake of an alleged February hazing incident with the school’s football program that has attracted national attention.

Mater Dei president Walter Jenkins’ announcement Tuesday that he is also creating a task force to review “how athletics is engaged” at the school comes a week after an Orange County Register report raised questions about Mater Dei head football coach Bruce Rollinson and the school’s handling of an alleged hazing incident between two players that left one of the players with a traumatic brain injury, a broken nose and other head injuries.

“Clearly sports are an important part of any high school experience, but they are not the sole mission of Mater Dei.” Jenkins wrote in a letter to Mater Dei parents and students. “We must ensure balance.”


A current Mater Dei player punched a teammate, 50 pounds lighter than him, three times in the face during a hazing ritual called “Bodies” on Feb. 4 while other Monarchs players shouted racial epithets at the smaller player, according to two videos of the altercation obtained by the Register.

The Register is not identifying the players because of their ages.

The Santa Ana Police Department recommended the larger player be prosecuted for felony battery, according to a police report. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office does not intend to file charges in the case.

The smaller player’s family filed a lawsuit against Mater Dei High School and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday, Nov. 23.

Jenkins’ letter comes amid mounting pressure on the school and diocese to fire Rollinson and Mater Dei principal Frances Clare.

“Let me assure you, that those of you who expressed concern as to how the school would respond – I’ve heard you,” Jenkins wrote in the letter. “I have read your e-mails and listened to your voicemails. We are and will continue to ensure the safety of everyone at Mater Dei High School.”

Jenkins said the firm conducting the investigation will provide him with “findings and recommendations for any necessary improvements.”

He said the firm will revealed in a future letter.

“We will not simply accept minimal “industry standards;” we will exceed them in the protection of student athletes,” he said. “This work will commence immediately. In a separate communication I will announce the name and background of the firm chosen.”

The task force recommendations will be made to Jenkins by June 2022, he said.

Jenkins said the Santa Ana Police Department will be on the school’s campus next week to conduct “an extensive assessment of our vulnerabilities and make recommendations.”

Mater Dei officials initially declined to cooperate with Santa Ana Police Department investigators, according to police reports. Rollinson and Kevin Kiernan, the school’s athletic director, finally agreed to be interviewed by a Santa Ana Police Department investigator with Mater Dei assistant principal for student services Miguel Gutierrez present on April 21, more than two months after the altercation and when the Santa Ana PD first requested information from the school, according to police reports.

Rollinson during the police interview denied hazing existed in the Mater Dei program. He added that the interview was the first time he had heard of the Bodies game.

Earlier Rollinson told the injured player’s father “If I had a hundred dollars for every time these kids played Bodies or Slappies, I’d be a millionaire,” according to a court filing.

Jenkins said he will also have meetings with students about their experience and hold “town hall” style meetings with parents during Spring semester.

Mater Dei to commission independent probe of its sports programs

Christin Hakim

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