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Principal and athletic director removed from Hamilton HS campus, reassigned within district

The district said it moved the employees to “avoid any distraction" as the Maricopa County Attorney's Office decides how it will proceed with the hazing investigation.

CHANDLER, Ariz. - Chandler Unified School District has announced that Hamilton High School Principal Ken James, Athletic Director Shawn Rustad and former head football coach Steve Belles will be reassigned within the district away from the Hamilton High School campus.

This comes after the Chandler Police Department recommended charges for the three employees in connection with the allegations of hazing within the Hamilton High School football program in July.

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Victims claim they were subjected to various forms of assault inside the school's football locker room, and some of the incidents were captured on cellphone video and shared on social media.

CUSD told 12 News in April that Belles had been reassigned to home after three football players were charged for assault related to the hazing. The district said that Belles would not be on campus during the indefinite reassignment.

However, in July, the day after police said they were recommending charges for James, Belles and Rustad, the district notified parents via email that Belles would continue in his teaching duties and that James would continue as principal. The email said Coach Dick Baniszewski was appointed to lead the football program.

To Hamilton parents and guardians,

As you may know, the Chandler Police Department has recommended charges against Principal Ken James and Mr. Steve Belles for the alleged violation of mandatory reporting laws relative to the hazing events involving the Hamilton High football team. We are not privy to all of the details of the investigation, but it's important to understand that no staff member has been charged and that all are presumed innocent under our system of justice.

While the Maricopa County Attorney’s office reviews the investigation to determine if charges will be filed, Mr. James will continue in his duties as the principal, and Mr. Belles will continue in his teaching duties.

As you may also be aware, the district has made changes to address the issues relative to the football program, including appointing Coach Dick Baniszewski to lead the football program. Significant remedial measures also have been taken to address the safety of student-athletes. These measures include addressing supervision in locker rooms, increasing dialogue relative to anti-hazing policies and behavioral expectations with coaches, student-athletes and parents, and the creation of training tools such as the hazing prevention video for use district-wide.

Student and staff safety will remain a top priority. The Hamilton High staff stands ready to provide your student(s) an opportunity to have a successful school year. Thank you for choosing CUSD and your continued support of HHS.

Warmest Regards,

Camille Casteel Ed.D

James, Rustad and Belles have not been formally charged in the hazing incident, but the school district said it could be some time before the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office decides how it will proceed with the case.

The district said it moved the employees to “avoid any distraction caused by this uncertainty.”

The move is effective Monday, Sept. 25 until further notice.

Chris Farabee, who has been assistant principal at Hamilton High School for the last 14 years, will serve as acting principal. Sharon Vanis, a former athletic director at the school, will serve as acting athletic director.

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