Four members of the Petaluma National Little League team that captivated Sonoma County last summer were suspended from school for two days this month after an altercation with a fifth team member at Petaluma Junior High.
The mother of the fifth boy said her son has been bullied by the others since the all-star team went to San Bernardino last August in its journey to the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania.
Parents of the other boys deny any bullying and said a minor incident has been blown far out of proportion.
The 13 members of the team became hometown heroes as they fought back from the brink of defeat several times and represented the West division with distinction in the internationally televised youth baseball competition. After finishing third in the world, the team returned home to a ticker-tape parade downtown, city proclamations and invitations to community events for months afterward.
According to parents of three of the boys, two incidents occurred that led to the suspensions.
On April 12, three or four of the boys tussled with the fifth in a school stairwell. One of the boys gave the fifth a "titty twister" by pinching and twisting his nipple. A few days later, a fourth boy called the fifth one "gay" or used a phrase similar to "you're gay."
The Press Democrat isn't identifying the boys because of their ages.
All four boys were suspended for two days each. Three were suspended for inappropriately touching their teammate, and the other for the comment.
Principal John Lehmann said he couldn't discuss the discipline because of confidentiality laws involving students. The school didn't characterize the behavior as "bullying," which Lehmann said is generally defined as intimidating behavior over a period of time.
"The kids were disciplined," he said. "They're back in school. They received the appropriate counseling and support. Everything seems to be going well."