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Lakeridge dancer's mom confirms details of alleged hazing

Former technique coach says she left the Pacer Dance Team over the handling of the young girl's complaint

Pacer Dance Team Head Coach Kayla NordlumA Lakeridge High School dancer’s mother says incoming team members were pelted with water pistols by intoxicated students, coaxed to step deeper and deeper into the Willamette River late at night and forced to ride unbuckled on the floor of cars during an initiation in August 2014.

Girls also were blindfolded, doused with syrup and told to wrestle in piles of feathers during the alleged hazing incident, the mother of one of the dancers told The Review this week, all after having their cell phones taken away by an adult chaperone earlier in the evening.

Until now, details about the alleged hazing have been limited to the summary of an investigation conducted late last year by The Hungerford Law Firm at the request of Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Heather Beck. That investigation, which included questioning dancers, parents and students with direct knowledge of what happened, concluded that students “likely under the influence of alcohol and marijuana” asked for “a sexual favor” from incoming dancers on Aug. 9 and initiated “Truth or Dare tasks” designed to humiliate the girls during an “initiation” event.

The report also said coaches “inappropriately” asked dancers to “share personal information about a tragic event in their lives” during a separate team bonding event at Sunriver in late August.

The summary, which was dated Dec. 10 and addressed to Beck, said the superintendent requested the investigation shortly after receiving complaints about the judgment and actions of head coach Kayla Nordlum. (Nordlum’s sister, Ashley Nordlum, is the team’s assistant coach.) The complaints also questioned whether the district’s response to the allegations was appropriate.

Specific details about the alleged hazing surfaced this week in a Facebook post by Lake Oswego resident Shelly Figueroa, who describes herself as a concerned friend of the mother of one of the dancers who attended the initiation. That mother asked The Review not to use her name on the advice of her attorney, but she verified all of the information in Figueroa’s post.

“I shared this family’s story on social media so people could grasp the severity of the hazing,” Figueroa told The Review. “It was not to call for punishment for the girls that did the hazing, but a call to remove any coach or staff member that is not keeping our children safe, so we can create a zero tolerance for hazing and bullying in our community as a whole.”

Lily Schauffler, the dance team’s former technique coach, also stepped forward this week to say that she resigned from her position on Aug. 29 because of frustration over the way Kayla Nordlum coached the team and the way Lakeridge administrators responded to the incident.

Schauffler and her mother, Gretchen Schauffler, say they did not know Figueroa before the alleged hazing incident was posted on Facebook, but that they created a timeline of the alleged incidents in an effort to shed light on what really happened last August.

“I believe that this community is in pain, is suffering because of deep confusion about what has happened, and I want to be able to explain to people how this started and why it happened,” Gretchen Schauffler said.

Lakeridge Principal Jennifer SchieleDistrict officials would not say whether Kayla Nordlum’s contract will be renewed at the end of the current dance season, which has about two months left. Officials also would not say whether the coach faces disciplinary action, citing state laws and the district’s own personnel policies.

Kayla Nordlum, who remains the team’s head coach, did not respond to requests for comments about the latest allegations. Lakeridge Principal Jennifer Schiele also declined to comment for this story.

But Figueroa, the dancer’s mother and the Schaufflers say this is what happened:

The Aug. 9 initiation

Figueroa’s Facebook post, verified item by item by the mother of one of the dancers who participated in the Aug. 9 initiation, says parents were told that the girls would “wear funny costumes, go to the Junior High to play games, then go back to the house where they’ll eat pizza and watch movies. It’s a great bonding initiation.”

Instead, the dancer’s mother confirmed, each girl was blindfolded and some were “forced to ride on the floor of a vehicle” with no seatbelts. The girls were driven to downtown Lake Oswego, where they were “told to yell obscenities outside local restaurants and businesses.”

Lake Oswego police records confirm that part of the story, quoting an employee of one downtown business who reported that kids were “climbing around cars and causing trouble” on First Street.

According to Figueroa and the dancer’s mother, the girls were then taken to Lakeridge High School, where students, allegedly under the influence of alcohol and drugs, awaited them. The initiants were told that if they removed their blindfolds, there would be “painful consequences.”

The students threw water balloons at the girls “as hard as they can,” Figueroa and the dancer’s mother say. When the students ran out of water balloons, they threw “water guns at them,” the Facebook post recounts, and female students began calling the initiants humiliating names. Some of the incoming dancers asked them to stop, said it hurt and a couple of them cried, Figueroa’s post says, but they were told “you deserve it.”

It was at this point that some boys asked for “a sexual favor,” Figueroa and the dancer’s mother say — a claim repeated in The Hungerford Law Firm’s report.

The girls were then “asked to take off the costume and stand in their bikinis,” Figueroa and the dancer’s mother say, as other students dumped syrup, ketchup, oatmeal and powder on them. The girls were told “to wrestle each other in feathers” until there was a “last one standing.” The girls were told they had to dance with the boys, the Facebook post says, but when the situation got out of control, “they were told to just run down to the field, barefoot and in the dark.”

The girls were then driven to the Willamette River, with some of them sitting “on the floor of the cars and unbuckled.” The girls were told to stand in the river and “they were asked questions about the coach of the team. If the girls got the answer wrong, they had to step deeper into the river.” The questions “stopped once the girls were up to their shoulders in the river. It is now 11:30 p.m.,” Figueroa’s Facebook post says.

To get a ride back from the river, Figueroa and the dancer’s mother say, the girls had to “chase after the car while it drove away and try to touch it.” They were “still barefoot in bikinis, running from the river up to George Rogers Park.”

The girls had their phones taken away by an adult chaperone at the beginning of the night before the events began, Figueroa and the dancer’s mother say, so the girls did not have a way to reach their parents. One girl was laughed at when she said that “my mom will not be happy with this” while sitting on the floor blindfolded. “Not one girl was asked if she was OK, thirsty, needed water, cold, embarrassed or wanted to stop,” Figueroa and the dancer’s mother say.

In an Aug. 11 email to parents following the event, Kayla Nordlum wrote, “From the looks of the pictures and the stories that were told, this was so much fun! Thank you ALL for being such great sports and making this initiation fun and SAFE!”

The Sunriver retreat

More issues arose at an Aug. 24-28 dance team retreat in Sunriver.

Until parents started to complain, Kayla Nordlum had been looping duct tape around door handles and onto the end of door frames so that if any of the girls tried to sneak out of their rooms, the tape would be ripped. The penalty for ripping the tape was not being allowed to dance at the first football game of the year.

Nordlum said in an Aug. 25 email that she would stop the taping. “I have said over and over if you have concerns with the way I’m coaching or caring for your dancer PLEASE CALL ME,” she wrote. “Don’t talk to other moms or dancers, that is just starting unneeded drama. Sorry to be so stern but I need your support.”

On the evening of Aug. 27, Nordlum “had the girls go around and share someone or something influential and then something tragic,” she explained in an Aug. 29 email. According to the Hungerford report, the coaches “inappropriately shared deeply personal information with dancers and inappropriately asked dancers to likewise share such personal information about a tragic event in their lives,” although Nordlum saw it differently.

“This was probably my favorite moment of camp, the team was already really bonded by then, and it was cool to see the girls support each other in the highs and lows of their life so far,” Nordlum said in the Aug. 29 email.

The district’s response

Lily Schauffler, the former Pacer Dance Team technique coach who resigned on Aug. 29, and her mom, Gretchen Schauffler, said this week that they want to clear the air regarding what happened after the Aug. 9 initiation. Lily Schauffler said the hazing did occur, but that she is focusing on what happened after the Aug. 9 incident.

“The issue is how the adults involved are handling it — or not handling it,” she said.

Key points in the Schauffler timeline include:

Lakeridge Athletic Director Ian LamontThe week of Aug. 11: A 14-year-old dancer told Lily Schauffler that she had experienced hazing, which Schauffler says she reported to Nordlum and to Lakeridge Athletic Director Ian Lamont. Schauffler says she told Lamont the name of the girl who reported the incident, but she did not tell Nordlum. Lamont took the issue to Lakeridge Principal Jennifer Schiele, and the two decided to talk to all sports teams about what hazing is and warn them to never do it again.

Aug. 29: Nordlum sent Schauffler text messages while they were at the Sunriver retreat, saying she believed that hazing did not occur, that the 14-year-old who shared the information was not telling the truth and that she and her mother were spreading rumors, the timeline says. She asked Schauffler to tell her the name of the girl who reported the incident; when Schauffler refused and directed her to Lamont for further information, Nordlum allegedly told her that she would be removed from her position. Schauffler quit.

Aug. 30: Nordlum said she thought she knew who the girl was and sent her parents “an email threatening to kick the girl off the team if they continue to ‘spread rumors,’” according to the timeline. Lily Schauffler said she was overwhelmed at this point and reached out to her mom for help. So did the parents of the 14-year-old girl, who asked Gretchen Schauffler to be present at a meeting with Schiele and Lamont. Schiele and Lamont said “that they would take action, although they could not disclose what those actions were,” the timeline says.

Nov. 6: Gretchen Schauffler and the parents of the 14-year-old who came forward met with Superintendent Heather Beck and informed her about “what had happened, along with other parents who are frustrated with the harassment they experienced and continue to, along with the continued inappropriate behavior of Coach Kayla. Dr. Beck finds the evidence presented to her at the meeting so appalling that she immediately orders a formal investigation,” the timeline says.

Nov. 6 to Dec. 5: “Details, interviews and extensive documentation from all kinds of different sources are assembled by the independent investigator about the hazing and its handling.”

Dec. 10: An executive summary of the Hungerford report is released.

“The investigation of the Lakeridge dance team was concluded in December. The district stands by the results of this investigation,” Superintendent Heather Beck said Wednesday. “Our focus is on supporting all of our students and to help them move beyond this event and be successful in our school environment. The district is solidifying plans for additional training and school culture awareness for all segments of our school community. District staff will not discuss or comment on specifics surrounding the investigation with respect to student and staff privacy.”

Many parents still say the characterization of what happened is incorrect, including Suzanne Young, a current volunteer for the team whose daughter previously was a Pacer dancer.

“The team has accepted what the district has decided and would like to move on in a positive way for the remainder of the two months they have left in their season,” Young said Wednesday. “It would be nice if the adults in the community would allow them to do what the district has asked them to do.”

Contact Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or jdaley@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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