Fourteen Senior High basketball players were suspended from competition for at least a week after an alleged Wednesday night hazing incident, according to interim School District 2 Superintendent Jack Copps.
The incident happened during a dinner held for the basketball team at a private residence.
"It was a private gathering, which isn't unusual for this kind of thing with teams, and it got out of hand," said Copps.
It appears, partly due to a video obtained by school officials, that players held down another team member, a junior, and shocked him with a dog's shock collar. Copps said each of the suspended players had varying degrees of involvement.
"The team had a lot of momentum here and this is a huge loss for them," he said.
The victim, who appeared to have been shocked in the neck area, was not visibly injured and did not require medical treatment, Copps added.
Basketball games scheduled for the week -- Thursday night at West High and Friday night at Hardin -- will go on as planned, using junior varsity and sophomore players.
At Thursday night's rivalry game at West High, Senior's starting lineup featured a glut of youth -- three sophomores and two juniors, most of whom hadn't seen significant varsity minutes -- due to the suspensions.
"It's just sad all around, what happened," said Senior student Kennedy Chambers, 15.
Senior student Kael Giebink, 15, said he spoke with the victim earlier in the day and that it's impacted the whole school.
"Our school was pretty tense today," he said. "I know he, and most of us, was really freaked out about what happened and about the suspensions."
Despite the sudden shakeup with the team, the gym on Thursday night was packed and echoed with the cheers of parents and students on both sides throughout the game, which West won, 72-25.
"We're here to support our school," said Kenzie Schreier, a 15-year-old Senior student. "We're going to support our school no matter what. It's too bad this happened but we still go to Senior High and we're part of the student body and we'll support them."
Even with the lopsided loss, students, coaches and fans said the Senior players did well given the tumultuous circumstances.
"I'm so proud of those kids and for their effort," said Senior head coach Jim Wilsey. "West is so good ... if you don't come with all your weapons against them, it's tough. And obviously we didn't have all of our guys tonight. The seven kids that took the court for us gave it everything they had."
Copps said he felt the players' punishment was fitting, especially given that they came during a critical time in the basketball season and for an important game.
"I think the message is loud and clear," he said. "I think they fully understand the gravity of this."
At least one Billings parent disagreed on Thursday. Brenda Sommerville has two children attending West who know several of the suspended players.
She feels they should be removed from the team.
"It's just very sad that a human does that to another human," she said. "There needs to be consequences and they need to understand that."
It isn't clear yet if charges be filed. Copps said it is out of SD2's hands and up to the victim and his family.
"There has been a significant school district investigation and the School Resource Officers have participated in the investigation, so what will become of this we don't know yet," Copps said.
The players weren't allowed at Thursday's game and won't be admitted to Friday's in Hardin. They're expected to return to the team on Monday.
Wilsey feels it is "a good team with good kids" and hopes they can learn from the incident.
"They'll be back at practice Monday and we'll regroup and get back after it," he said. "This will be a learning experience for them. They made a mistake and they'll learn from it, but we certainly won't throw in the towel on the season."
Regardless, Copps said it's important that a distinct line is drawn between playing around and hazing.
"We recognize what happened as hazing," he said. "It's a very dangerous activity and throughout the years we have made every attempt possible to educate the kids about these hazings."