ABC15 Investigates: Hundreds of documents released in CCU cheer squad investigation

(File photo)

Coastal Carolina University has released hundreds of pages of documents related to the cheerleading squad suspension that divided the community and brought national attention to the university.

On Wednesday, more than 300 pieces of paper were given to the ABC15 studio for review. The papers were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Among those forms were letters filled with accusations from outraged parents, complaints from cheerleading team leadership, and questions from potential students who said they were scared of the school scandal.

On March 30, 2017, Mona Prufer, spokesperson for the university, confirmed that the CCU cheerleading team had been suspended pending a conduct investigation.

In the following days, reports showed that the suspension stemmed from a letter received by several university officials, claiming CCU cheerleaders were involved in an escort service and were working in strip clubs and prostituting themselves.

Warning: Language used in the investigation report below may be offensive to some readers.

Some called the allegations unsubstantiated and the university's decision to suspend the team unprecedented. Others called for legal retribution., the website and app that the cheerleaders have been accused of using to run an escort service, offered to cover the legal fees for the accused cheerleaders.

University officials said the educational institution was taking steps to investigate the allegations.

On May 1, officials confirmed that the CCU cheer team would be back in action by football season.

The documents ABC15 received Thursday show that there are no warrants or charges listed against any of the suspended cheerleaders.

Some of the email exchanges included in the release show confusion, frustration, and anger among all parties.

"I'm outraged and appalled at the fact that my daughter's picture was posted with the headline. 'Entire Coastal Carolina Cheerleading Squad Suspended after Prostitution Allegations,'" said one parent in an email to CCU.

After the news broke of the suspension, dozens of emails were sent to CCU from potential students, prospective cheerleaders, parents of current cheerleaders, and even parents of students who aren't cheerleaders at all.

Several of those emails question why the university was so quick to suspend an entire squad.

One professor at the university even speculated on the matter, wondering if the suspension would have happened if the same allegations had come out against an all-male team.

"Would this happen in any other sport? Are you discriminating against women?" one email said.

Names and email addresses that don't belong to faculty have been redacted from the documents, but many of them ask the same questions in different ways.

Still, many say the silence from the university on the matter is what hurts the most.

One parent wrote to the university, "I believe these student athletes deserve answers. Their family and friends deserve answers. Speak up and tell us what is going on."

A letter from a 2012 CCU graduate spoke to a similar sentiment: "Those students deserve a little more consideration from the university than to be unfairly held accountable for unsubstantiated rumors."

ABC15's investigative staff has reached out to the university. A university spokesperson said they have provided all of the information that is available at this time and the investigation is still ongoing.

Documents included in the release also include several emails from CCU President David Decenzo.

Over the course of the suspension and resulting outcry for explanation, Decenzo wrote to another staff member multiple times to ask how to respond to the concerns of the public because he said he was not sure how to answer.

On Friday, ABC15 will be delving deeper into the documents and exploring the timeline of events that led up to the cheerleaders' suspension.

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