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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Northbrook, Illinois Officials Press Conference

Aired May 8, 2003 - 15:41   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we're going to shift our attention to the northern suburbs of Chicago, Northbrook specifically. This is the principal of that high school, Northbrook High School (sic), of which students were involved in that hazing incident on Sunday. Not at the school, but juniors and seniors and -- at Northbrook High School (sic).
This is the principal, Michael Riggles (sic). Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MICHAEL RIGGLE, PRINCIPAL, GLENBROOK NORTH HIGH SCHOOL: We're in the process of establishing a community-wide task force to address the issues raised by this event and how we, along with the entire community, plan to help insure that something like this never happens again here or anywhere else.

Whenever there is an unfortunate incident of this type, caring people work together to insure that the lessons learned will help us and others prevent similar events from occurring in the future. We are here to help address concerns regarding this incident and we are working to bring understanding and closure as soon as we possibly can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to hear now from Deputy Chief Michael Green of the Northbrook Police Department and then Dr. Riggle and Dr. Hale will take your questions. Deputy Chief Green has agreed with our concern about parental responsibility.

MIKE GREEN, NORTHBROOK POLICE DEPT.: The investigation is still continuing with the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department and the Cook County Forest Reserve Police Department being the lead investigative agencies. Northbrook Police Department is providing assistance wherever we can, and at this time, we're trying to obtain some information from an anonymous report that possibly some parents of GBN students may have been involved in obtaining alcoholic beverages that were used in this incident.

At this time, it is still an anonymous report and we're providing the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department with any information that we are able to develop at this time. We have not been able to confirm that and we just want to reiterate our intention to work very, very closely with the high school and everybody else connected with the investigation.

The high school has provided us with outstanding cooperation so far, and we're expecting that we'll be working with them in the very near future with the task force that has been proposed.

QUESTION: Mike, how would you characterize the help (OFF- MIKE)...

GREEN: Why don't we wait until at the end and Tom, why don't you....

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you can do it.

GREEN: Do you want to do it right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and Mike go right ahead.

GREEN: OK. That's fine.

QUESTION: How would you characterize the hopefulness of parents of students who were there or who physically took part?

GREEN: Right now, the information that we're getting from people is pretty much in the way of e-mails and telephone messages that are left. In many cases, the telephone messages do not have any return telephone numbers attached with them. Many times, it's information saying that they're very supportive of the school, saying that something should be done in order to correct the problem.

There have been some people that have brought information to our attention that they were once involved in an incident like this. But unfortunately, we're not getting anything in the way of actual information that could be used to further the investigation.

If parents have information, if students have information, we would love to have them contact us at the police department, or if they feel more comfortable, contacting somebody at the school. But we need to have somebody that we can actually talk to. And right now, it's more of an anonymous type of telephone call or e-mail messages.

QUESTION: As a follow-up, I guess what I'm trying to get at, is are parents allowing you to talk to kids who were there? Are they helping or hindering the kids who were actually there who -- I know you've already been...

GREEN: Keep in mind that the Northbrook Police Department is not the agency that is doing these interviews. It is the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department and the Forest Reserve District Police Department. So therefore, we are not the ones involved in that particular aspect of the investigation.

QUESTION: Mr. Riggle, could I ask you a question, sir?

RIGGLE: Yes.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts about the fact that this has apparently become a worldwide news story? Europe is seeing this, we're told. People in Baghdad are watching this, copies of this video and seeing the reports on this story.

This is, I mean, your thoughts on how this has grown into this gigantic phenomenon?

RIGGLE: It's devastating to our school community. I mean, the message that needs to go to worldwide community, is that this is an excellent high school and it's in a great community. And we're in shock.

I've got students, parents, other community members who are angry and they feel that they are embarrassed. I've got alums that are worldwide, alumni of the school who say this is not the school I knew when I went here and they're running under the assumption that something has happened to this school.

On a daily basis, our students come in. We have great kids. We have very, very little discipline problems. We work hard on programs that teach respect. We run a diversity week to cover all different aspects. We have a program called Class Act, that the students really do believe in.

So this is hitting us hard, and the message that needs to go out is this will continue to be an excellent high school and we'll continue to pay close attention to those factors that we need to that will prevent this from happening.

QUESTION: Has your school's reputation been damaged irreparably as a result of this?

RIGGLE: We hope not irreparably. We feel that it has been damaged, especially for the people closely connected to the school from an emotional standpoint. And we will continue to do the best we possibly can in all situations, and hopefully over time, we will regain the reputation we've always had.

I believe in this area of Chicago and in surrounding area, Glenbrook North has always been pointed to as an example of behavior, that we model sportsmanship, we model academic excellence, and we are just a model for a friendly attitude and behavior of our students and our staff.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Today -- earlier today, I spoke to one of your city officials, a Northbrook city official who said he was troubled by the idea that -- I think the way he put it was, school officials and even police knew or should have known that something was going to happen. What I hear you saying and what you told me yesterday also as well on this, you tried to know. And as late as Friday, you were pursuing this?

RIGGLE: We pursued it through Friday. And as I made in my statements, there are students who did wear jerseys to school. The questions were asked, and the answers were not forthcoming from students. And we've learned by talking to students that there were many people who participated in the activity, for a significant number of people who did not know the time or location until as late as one hour before the event. So that information was circulated on the weekend and that was at a time when they were not in our care and the questions could no longer be asked, nor could they be answered to the school officials who would have forwarded that information.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ..any students being taken off of sports teams or graduation?

O'BRIEN: We've been listening to Dr. Michael Riggles (sic), the principal of the Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois. He was preceded by the police chief in Northbrook, Michael Green.

This in the wake of that incident on Sunday, caught on videotape, supposedly began as a powderpuff football game with some harmless hazing type of activities, which clearly, as you can see from this tape, escalated. Five girls ultimately were hospitalized.

Still unclear what, if any, charges might be filed. As the police chief mentioned, another jurisdiction, the Cook County Sheriff's Office is leading the potential criminal investigation.

But perhaps most interesting out of what we just heard here are unsubstantiated statements, rumors at this point, I guess, that some parents made it possible for there to be alcohol on the scene there. That might have exacerbated this situation. That clearly does raise the prospect of charges which might be levied against those parents.

We are going to continue watching that story and watching the briefing. If there's anything more that comes out of it, we'll let you know about it.

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