As students and parents trickled in and out of the quiet, shaded Westlake High School campus Monday, their voices dropped as they discussed hazing allegations stemming from the football team's recent trip to Hawaii.
Students said they had heard different accounts of the events.
"Rumors are flying," one mother said.
Girls giggled and waved at the news cameras as they crossed the street onto campus. Later, a school administrator asked reporters to move back, to a sidewalk in front of the Ventura County school.
Nick Maclea, an incoming junior, said Westlake was a "pretty big football school," where coaches were "pretty tight" on players' behavior.
The 16-year-old said he played football his freshman year. When asked if he remembered football coaches specifically telling the team not to bully others, Maclea said that was something "they always say throughout the school."
"It does surprise me that Westlake students would act like this," he said.
Madison Hague, another incoming junior, agreed that Westlake had a strong football culture but said school officials encourage students involved in extra-curriculars to set an example for others.
"Football here is like the thing," she said. "But they always tell us to be super-respectful. We're supposed to be like leaders of the school."
Hague said she had seen bullying in the two years she spent as a cheerleader, but described it as "normal high school stuff."
The allegations stemmed from an incident Wednesday night at a Waikiki hotel, district and police officials said. Conejo Valley Unified School District Superintendent Jeffrey Baarstad said six or seven varsity players went to a hotel room to speak with some freshman players who had been teasing a varsity player during an earlier trip to Pearl Harbor.
The gathering "quickly escalated into pushing and shoving," with a dozen players involved, Baarstad said. The coaching staff was immediately notified and interviewed players. No injuries were reported and no one sought medical attention.
Baarstad described the incident earlier Monday as "a shoving match between boys in a hotel room that has been blown way out of proportion."
Five varsity players were suspended for the team's Friday game, Baarstad said. Three were released to their parents and two others were confined to their room because their parents were not on the trip. Parents were advised to contact police if they believed an assault occurred.
On Friday, Honolulu police arrested a 17-year-old male after a 15-year-old male "reported a sexual assault by the suspect," police spokeswoman Teresa Bell said. The felony case was declined by prosecutors, though Bell said police can continue their investigation.
Westlake took more than 150 players to Hawaii for varsity, junior varsity and freshman games. Baarstad said the district's investigation into the incident was ongoing.
"We have to determine if there's going to be any school disciplinary action in terms of suspension from school and games," he said. "I've encouraged the coaching staff and administration to take time in sorting through stuff."
Back at Westlake, Anna Arnaout, whose son played football at Westlake for four years, said her family was "very supportive of the football program." She praised coaches and described the team as the "most-behaved" in the district.
"There's no bullying and there has never been any bullying," she said. "This is a bunch of nothing. We love Westlake football."
Incoming senior Marcos Soto said he was surprised to hear of the allegations.
"Like arrested?" the 17-year-old said, gesturing to his wrists. "This is the first I've ever heard of something like this."
Soto, who plays on the school's basketball team, said the football program had a "pretty solid" reputation. He added that he hadn't seen or heard of hazing allegations involving his own team.
"I don't know what happens in the football locker room," Soto said. "But in the basketball locker room, nothing out of the ordinary happens."
Times staff writer