Andover High School principal Philip Conrad plans to hire an outside investigator to review allegations that varsity hockey players were denied food and water as punishment for losing games, he said Tuesday.
Conrad’s announcement comes amid a separate probe by the state Department of Children and Families. Head coach Chris Kuchar and two assistant coaches were placed on leave Jan. 24 after DCF notified school officials of the agency’s investigation.
In a statement Tuesday, the Andover Public Schools said DCF initially advised town officials to “hold off” on performing their investigation while the state conducted its review. But DCF recently informed the school district that it could begin its own review, even though the agency’s probe remains ongoing, the statement said.
Conrad now intends to select a “reputable independent professional” to handle the school district’s review, with the permission of the School Committee, according to the release. The school district’s investigation is not a “rush to judgment” but standard protocol in such cases, the statement said.
DCF is probing two incidents connected to the Andover High varsity hockey program.
In one of the alleged incidents, varsity hockey players were forced to do “a punitive conditioning session” during a practice after the team lost a game, authorities have said. During that session, the students were allegedly not allowed a water break, according to the school district.
The other incident involves students being denied food after an away game as punishment for losing, according to school officials.
Kuchar’s lawyer, Tom Gleason, previously told the Globe that his client “strongly denies the accusations that he has abused, neglected or in any way mistreated his hockey players. These allegations are false.”
A DCF spokeswoman said Tuesday night that the agency is “still in the process of investigating this matter.”
Gleason said Kuchar is cooperating with DCF officials and “fully expects to be back behind the bench, coaching his team, once the truth becomes known.”
In Tuesday’s statement from the school district, Conrad said hiring an independent investigator is in the best interest of Andover High, given “the level of public interest in this situation and the need to have a finding which cannot be challenged for any reason, as well as the fact that the coaches have a reporting relationship to me as their supervisor.”
He said an outside investigator will “provide an objective, holistic review of this situation, which will aid us greatly as we move forward from this unfortunate situation.”
Conrad continued, “If anything improper or inappropriate was occurring in our hockey program that potentially endangers the health, welfare, and safety of our students, we want to know so that we can take the appropriate steps to prevent it from ever happening again. This is not about a rush to judgment. It’s about doing the right thing and protecting our children above all else.”Danny McDonald of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.