By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Three Kansas high school football players accused of pressing a hot coat hanger to the stomachs of several freshmen players in a hazing incident some have called a branding have been charged with aggravated battery, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
The students from Hutchinson, Kansas, twisted the hanger back and forth until it got hot enough to leave a burn mark on the skin, Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said.
Schroeder said the incident is being called "a branding" in the local news media and elsewhere, but said the students were not marked with a consistent symbol.
"I think of branding as using a hot iron heated in coals or a fire," Schroeder said. "But I guess if you burn someone with something it is branding. It's a matter of semantics. Whether it leaves a permanent mark or not is unclear."
The issue of hazing and bullying has been in the news recently in connection with several high-profile incidents, including the suspension of Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito for his alleged harassment of teammate Jonathan Martin.
Charges were filed Tuesday against the Kansas players, who are accused of hazing freshman football players last week as they were moved up to the varsity squad.
Kendric Hudson, 18, was charged with three counts of aggravated battery and misdemeanor hazing; Jaiden Casanova, 18, with aggravated battery and hazing; and a 16-year-old boy with aggravated battery, officials said.
Court records did not listed attorneys for Hudson and Casanova. The lawyer for the 16-year-old could not be reached for comment.
The Hutchinson School District said in a statement it does not tolerate hazing and players were warned twice by football coach Randy Dreiling that hazing in any form was forbidden.
Dreiling went to police about the hanger incident and the district said it is cooperating with police.
District spokesman Ray Henman declined to discuss possible punishments for the players.
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Eric Walsh)