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Choking Incident Leads To Suspensions Of 3 Seniors

PLYMOUTH, Minn. (WCCO) -- This is supposed to be a pretty promising year for the Armstrong High School boys hockey team. It is a squad laden with upperclassmen leading the way on the ice.

"They're all really good players on the team, it's their senior year," said classmate Blake Rosenzweig.

But suddenly, Rosenzweig and his fellow Armstrong classmates are worried -- not only about the team, but also concerned for three friends. Three senior hockey players may have ended their season before it even began.

One of them, an 18-year-old student, spend his weekend in the Hennepin County Jail. The two other juveniles were handcuffed and led away to the county's juvenile detention facility. All three are suspended from school for at least 45 days and are accused of playing another kind of "game."

"You see it on TV, UFC wrestling, you gotta choke them until they tap out," said classmate Robbie Stokka.

Stokka is talking about an Oct. 6 incident in school where the three boys were horsing around with another student and choked their friend until he lost consciousness. They say they weren't doing it to feel high -- commonly known as "the choking game."

Still, the practice is both deadly and dangerous, and the Robbinsdale District is pursuing the highest level of punishment against the three students involved.

"That's what doesn't add up. It's a level four, right up there with rape, arson, robbery and intent to hurt him, when he's our friend," Stokka said.

He said the three involved in the incident weren't intending to be malicious or hurtful in any way. Nevertheless, the fellow student briefly passed out from the choke hold and was later transferred to a local hospital to be checked out. The three students were suspended from school, initially for 10 days, which was later changed to a 45-day suspension.

Meanwhile, the case was turned over to police who are investigating for possible assault charges. In the midst of Homecoming activities last Friday, the three were arrested and taken into custody.

The adult student was booked into the Hennepin County jail, where he was bailed out this past weekend. The other two boys were taken to the county's Juvenile Detention Facility and released to their parent's custody. The county attorney is reviewing the case for possible criminal charges.

That's setting off hallway protests within Armstrong High School. Several hundred students gathered last week, angered by the apparent heavy handedness of the district and school administrators.

Beyond their 45-day suspensions and likely dismissal from the hockey team, the three will now carry criminal histories. That's the long-term effect from the incident that has parents, like Pati Rosensweig, outraged.

While Rosenzweig admits the actions of the boys was "stupid" and the game has no place with teens, she is angry at school administrators for using the boys as a way to send a message to others.

Rosenzweig said the district's own Rights and Responsibilities Handbook spells out four distinct levels of student misconduct. She believes what they did does not rise to "level 4," which includes such crimes as, rape, arson, sexual misconduct or bringing weapons to school.

"Their own rules set by them as to what the proper punishment should be. Jail, police? Way overboard," she said.

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