June 13, 2017

KINGS POINT, N.Y. (AP) In a story June 13 about an investigation of the soccer team at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, The Associated Press erroneously reported the location of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the federal agency that oversees the school. The academy is located in New London, Connecticut, not in Rhode Island, and is under the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense.

A corrected version of the story is below:

5 Kings Point soccer players sue to overturn graduation ban

Five soccer players at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy have filed lawsuits after being told they would not be permitted to graduate this weekend

By FRANK ELTMAN

Associated Press

KINGS POINT, N.Y. (AP) - The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy is not permitting seven members of the men's soccer team to graduate with their class this weekend amid an investigation into possible sexual harassment, a congressman said Tuesday.

Five of the players have filed lawsuits seeking to be permitted to graduate, according to court documents. The lawsuits were filed Monday and Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

The court papers do not indicate any allegations of sexual harassment.

Documents filed on behalf of four of the players speak of alleged hazing of a freshman member of the team during a September visit to Connecticut for a game against the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Court papers involving a fifth player claim that student wasn't on the trip where alleged hazing may have occurred.

An attorney for that player declined comment; an attorney representing the other four players did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment. It was not immediately clear when the cases would be heard by a judge. The Merchant Marine Academy graduation will be held Saturday.

Revelations involving the soccer team come as the military service academy outside New York City has struggled with allegations of sexual abuse, harassment and bullying. Last year, a program that places academy midshipmen on commercial vessels was temporarily suspended over concerns that students were being victimized.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, chairman of the academy's Board of Visitors, a congressional oversight panel, said he learned of the investigation involving the soccer team about 10 days ago. He said he did not have specific details about what happened or when.

The academy's superintendent, Rear Admiral James Helis, sent an email to students and faculty last week about the suspension, according to Newsday, which acquired a copy of the email.

Helis said the investigation is being conducted by the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Merchant Marine Academy is the only service academy under the jurisdiction of the DOT; the U.S. Military Academy, Naval Academy and Air Force Academy are run by the Defense Department. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy is under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security.

Officials at the Transportation Department and the Merchant Marine Academy did not immediately comment.

It was not clear what impact the suspension would have on the soccer team because the team plays in the fall. Its record last season was 13-5-2, according to the NCAA. A more immediate impact is on seven members of the team, who will not be permitted to graduate when the academy holds its commencement ceremonies Saturday. None of those involved have been identified.

A study commissioned this year by the DOT found the academy has a culture of fear marked by a sense of victimhood and ''us vs. them'' mindset regarding sexual assault and harassment.

The study was ordered after the DOT halted a program in 2016 that places cadets on one-year internships working on commercial vessels. It came amid concerns about sex abuse and harassment within the Sea Year program.

The internship program, considered one of the unique educational training aspects at the 900-member academy on Long Island Sound, resumed this spring after the academy received assurances from operators of commercial vessels that they were taking steps to prevent harassment and abuse.

''Unfortunately, at almost every school there can be an incident,'' said King, a Long Island Republican. ''What's most important is how it is addressed. This seems to be being taken very seriously by Kings Point and the DOT.''

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