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Pennsylvania high school cancels football season amid hazing investigation

The first reported hazing incident at Middletown Area High School was August 12.
"In light of this, we have made the decision to cancel the 2022 football season," superintendent Dr. Chelton Hunter wrote.
"In light of this, we have made the decision to cancel the 2022 football season," superintendent Dr. Chelton Hunter wrote.Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

There will be no Friday night lights for one high school in Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, Middletown Area School District Superintendent Dr. Chelton Hunter announced the upcoming football season was cancelled amid an ongoing police investigation into hazing among players.

In the open letter to the community, Hunter confirmed hazing allegations.

"It is with great regret that I’m writing to share with you that we have obtained additional videotape showing another Middletown Area High School Football hazing incident which took place inside our heat acclimation room," the letter read. "Unfortunately, this video demonstrates that this hazing was much more widespread, and involved many more students, than we had previously known."

He continued, "In light of this, we have made the decision to cancel the 2022 football season. I know this decision will be met with many different opinions and emotions and will impact many students and families."

Hunter wrote that the footage had been turned over to law enforcement officials and any participating students would be disciplined.

"The kind of hazing that occurred in our facilities with this team is reprehensible. It simply cannot and will not be tolerated," Hunter concluded, "We know we must work to address the culture of this team, educate our student body about hazing, and put programs in place to help us ensure that this kind of atmosphere is never allowed to exist in our school facilities."

Dauphin County District Attorney Francis Chardo confirmed to TODAY Parents that the investigation is ongoing.

"It was referred to us by the township police and our county detectives are investigating the case,” Chardo said.

Earlier this month, the school district alerted parents and community letters of the inciting hazing incident, which was first reported "in the early morning hours" of August 12.

"The Middletown Area School District is currently investigating a situation involving the high school football team regarding improper conduct toward other team members," the open letter from Hunter read. "The District is currently cooperating with other agencies that are actively investigating the situation and hopes to conclude its investigation within the week."

Just days after the initial incident was reported, Middletown head football coach Scott Acri resigned.

"We learned of the hazing on Friday, 8/12 and Acri resigned on Monday, 8/15," Jody Zorbaugh, a communications specialist with the district, told TODAY Parents in a written statement.

Zorbaugh referred TODAY to the district's website for further comment.

"Due to the ongoing investigation and student and personnel confidentiality, we are not able to disclose any information other than what is already posted," Zorbaugh said.

With the 2022 season cancelled, it is not just the football players impacted.

Cheerleaders and marching band members — who have so far no reported involvement in the hazing incidents — are now without a season.

Neighboring district Steelton-Highspire Superintendent Mick Iskric said that cheerleaders and band members would be welcome at their home games.

Iskric told TODAY Parents that though Middletown is their rival, the school is also their neighbor.

"When I saw that students would potentially miss out on an opportunity to add to their high school experience, I felt it was necessary to offer the chance to work together," Iskric told TODAY. "If my daughters were in that situation, I would hope that someone looked at the entire situation and did the same so they wouldn’t miss out on an experience that will bring great memories for years to come. Steelton-Highspire has always been a giving and caring community so it was an easy decision."