Mater Dei High School president Father Walter E. Jenkins will not return to the coed Catholic campus after winter break, just as attorneys for a Sacramento law firm prepare to begin interviewing students and staff for an investigation into alleged hazing by players on the football team.
Jenkins became Mater Dei president in July after serving as president of Holy Cross High School in Queens, N.Y.
Diocese of Orange superintendent of schools Erin C.O. Barisano sent a letter to parents explaining Jenkins was not fired but instead was returning to the Holy Cross order in South Bend, Ind., where he will “take on a new assignment,” according to the Orange County Register. “There is no connection between the litigation and his departure from the school and to make such a connection is deeply unfair to Father Jenkins who served Mater Dei well during his tenure.”
A lawsuit filed in November by the parents of a former football player accused the school and Catholic Diocese of Orange of trying to cover up a February locker room fight in which the player suffered a traumatic brain injury.
A court filing alleged head football coach Bruce Rollinson told the injured player’s father the day after the fight, “If I had a hundred dollars for every time these kids played ‘Bodies or Slappies,’ I’d be a millionaire.”
The lawsuit also resulted in demands for Rollinson and Principal Frances Clare to be fired, the Register reported.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer reviewed a Santa Ana police report recommending the larger player who struck the smaller player be prosecuted for felony battery. He concluded in a Nov. 30 press release that “Neither player involved in this fight was made to participate against their will … there is not a single shred of evidence to show this was anything other than a mutual combat situation with two willing participants who traded blow for blow, including repeated punches to each other’s heads.”
Spitzer indicated, however, that he was willing to review information about the fight and any other incidents of potential hazing in schools.