UPDATE:  Charges have been dropped against two Whitwell High School football players accused of hitting a fellow player in the back with a belt.

The students were suspended for 12 days; but now, Channel 3 is learning those students will return to school on Friday.

Whitwell is having a game Thursday but those students will not be playing.

Superintendent Doctor Mark Griffith said it will be up to the coaches and the high school principal to allow them back on the team.

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS STORY: Two Whitwell High School junior football players have been expelled from the school because of an alleged hazing incident.

Mark Griffith, Superintendent of Marion County Schools, says the two players hit a freshman player in the back with a belt in the locker room before football practice Wednesday.

A football coach was alerted of the incident Wednesday night. He then contacted Whitwell High School Thursday to report the incident.

The freshman player was taken to a local hospital to be checked out. He is expected to be okay.

The two students have been expelled pending the investigation. Superintendent Dr. Mark Griffith says he takes these allegations, very seriously.

Some of Whitwell's top football players are off the team. Two juniors have been expelled for a hazing incident inside the locker room before practice Wednesday afternoon. “They are not still in school. They were expelled pending a disciplinary hearing. That will be scheduled in the coming days for a board of administrators, to discuss their fate,” said Superintendent Doctor Mark Griffith.

Griffith said the juniors hit the freshman in the back with a belt. Head coach Randall Bouldin was notified late last night before reaching out to school administrators. “He went on to practice yesterday, the coach received a text message late last night this incident had happened. He reported it to the administration this morning.”

School officials are investigating the moments leading up to the incident. Including where the coaches were during the alleged abuse. “The coaches were spread throughout the warehouse at the time, some in the weight room, some in the dressing room. This happened in the back area in the dressing area.”

Dr. Griffith wants to ensure parents they are taking these allegations very seriously, and working with everyone involved to make sure the proper procedures are followed.  “I have been in constant conversation with the administration there, I put our attorney on notice as well as our school board. Made them aware via email. Like I said, it is under further investigation.”

Under state law, the disciplinary hearing must be scheduled within the next ten days. Doctor Mark Griffith said it'll probably be sooner rather than later.

The school's resource officer was notified and present during the investigation. Under the Mandatory Reporting Law, he was then required to notify the Department of Children's Services.

This is the second incident within the last six months in which Marion County School officials have had to refer to Tennessee’s Mandatory Reporting Law.

The first one happened in May. A Whitwell Middle school student was accused of sexually assaulting two students on an overnight field trip. That student was also expelled.

Under the reporting law, any person who believes a child is being abused must immediately report it to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services.

Marion County School officials followed this law both times.