PITTSBURGH — The parents of an autistic high school soccer player who was duct-taped to a goal post in a prank earlier this month don’t want charges filed against two students involved if they apologize and do community service, the parents’ lawyer said Monday after he and his clients met with local officials.
Attorney Phil DiLucente said the parents of 16-year-old Austin Babinsack of Natrona Heights don’t want to see police file juvenile court charges against the two upperclassmen provided they meet the specified conditions, which also would include getting autism awareness training. He said the details must still be ironed out.
“I don’t think, nor do the parents think, it will be necessary to press charges,” DiLucente said.
The attorney was working with Harrison Township police Chief Michael Klein and Highlands School District Superintendent Michael Bjalobok on a resolution after the player’s parents, John and Kristi Babinsack, met with the superintendent, DiLucente said.
“The Babinsacks have never been interested in suing anyone (they) just want a fair disposition of the situation,” DiLucente told The Associated Press.
The district has also agreed to intervene and prevent any more social media bullying that Austin has allegedly endured since his parents went public about the Oct. 5 incident.
“The meeting is an opportunity to draw some closure to the incident, to make sure the process of mending and healing takes place, and to make sure parents of the students involved know there is an action plan for the future,” Bjalobok said.
Officials have not released the names of the other players involved, though school officials have confirmed the boys — both upperclassmen — were suspended for five days and otherwise disciplined.
The duct-taping occurred on a night when underclassmen toilet paper the houses of senior players, usually the same week as the team’s final home game known as Senior Night. The Senior Night game was canceled in the wake of the duct-taping incident.
Some past players have said it was understood — by players and parents — that a younger player would be duct-taped as part of the toilet-papering tradition which dates back several years. But DiLucente disputed that Monday.
“The parents know from the boosters that there is toilet papering of senior’s homes, everybody knows that happens on that night. But it is not a ritual that someone gets taped to the soccer goal post,” DiLucente said, even if it has happened on occasion in the past.
And targeting Austin was out of bounds given his disability, DiLucente said.
“He was screaming at the top of his lungs,” DiLucente said, according to witnesses who helped free the boy after about 20 minutes. “That’s a little bit off the range, and that’s unnecessary and that’s hurtful.”
The attorney said soccer coach Jim Turner’s status wasn’t discussed at the meeting. School officials have said the coach was suspended pending a resolution of the matter. Turner’s attorney, Julian Neiser, told the AP he wasn’t aware of Monday’s meeting and knows of no change in the coach’s status. Neiser has said the coach was not aware of the duct-taping and didn’t condone it.