Family: School allowed bullying of former athlete

MARION, Ind. - The family of a former Marion High School athlete said he was the victim of extreme bullying that was allowed by school officials.

Kevin Rittenhouse said his 18-year-old son Alex was harassed and taunted at a soccer game Sept. 3 when students showed up wearing T-shirts displaying his mug shot.

School leaders claimed action was taken to stop the harassment, but not before the teen’s family said he was publicly humiliated at the school event.

Rittenhouse said his son was arrested last summer after he and his friends were caught with marijuana. Rittenhouse said he decided to turn his son in to police.

"Authorities confiscated his phone and that's how they came up with the other names of the other players and they assumed my nephew was a ‘nark.’ That's when the other players and parents started turning against my nephew and my brother," Kelly Chastain said.

Alex’s family said the bullying got so bad after the incident that he transferred to Oak Hill High School for a fresh start.

Last week, Marion High School students showed up to the soccer game against Oak Hill wearing the shirts with his mug shot and chanted his name.

"I know kids will be kids, I know they make mistakes, but to see an adult wearing this T-shirt -- that was unbelievable to me," Rittenhouse said.

Marion High School officials called the situation disappointing and said administrators took a proactive stance by turning people away at the gate who were wearing the shirts.

The Rittenhouse family said they saw people with the shirts in the stands and administrators didn't respond quickly enough.

Read the full statement from Marion High School officials:

"Marion High School administrators addressed the issue of the shirts in question immediately upon learning of them soon after school started on the day of the soccer double header. Anyone found wearing one of the shirts at school throughout the day was required to remove it, per dress code policy.

"In addition, school administrators took a proactive stance at the time of the games, turning people who were wearing the shirts away at the gate. No one was allowed into the stadium with one of the shirts visible. Unfortunately, there were a few who concealed them and displayed them once inside the stadium. MHS administrators dealt with those as they arose, and people were asked to cover the shirts or leave the stadium.

The MHS Athletic Department is committed to developing champions of character and promoting the spirit of sportsmanship. Coaches and teams were notified that day that any players wearing the shirts would not be allowed entry into the stadium.”

It is a disappointing situation. Administrators have spoken directly with family members to try to resolve their concerns, and would be happy to discuss the situation further if they address their continued concerns directly to us."

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