Family lawyer says Phoenix Union’s revised travel policies show guilt in student death

(Video by Anna De La Cruz/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – High school football is evolving each year. To mimic the next level of athletes, many programs plan retreats or specialized training camps away from school grounds akin to the getaways of collegiate athletics. For Cesar Chavez High School and one freshman in particular, an offseason escape tragically turned deadly.

Christopher Hampton, a 15-year-old freshman, was reported missing to authorities on July 17, and a post on social media from the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office revealed that his body was found on the afternoon of July 18. His death by drowning in Show Low Lake was confirmed to be an “accident” on Oct. 19.

Now, nearly seven months after the incident, the Phoenix Union High School District has decided to update its travel policy.

Benjamin Taylor, the attorney for the Hampton family, believes that the release of the latest travel policies that were approved last week by the district’s governing board, per Arizona’s Family, are only more incriminating for Cezar Chavez.

“This shows that they are guilty of everything,” Taylor said Wednesday. “The fact that they’re bringing out new policies now and not prior to this, this shows that they messed up.”

The policy updates, which are set to go into effect on the first day of July this year, include a list of “prohibited activities” that includes rock climbing, ziplining, activities on personal watercrafts and swimming, among other restrictions. The new policies are meant to aid in preventing future tragedies from happening again.

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“(The district) regularly reviews and revises our processes and procedures connected to all school-related business,” a spokesperson for Phoenix Union told 12News. “This practice is connected to our commitment to continuous improvement to best serve our students, staff, and community.”

Taylor filed a notice of claim in October that they planned to sue the Phoenix Union High School District for a reported $50 million. He said that he feels this incident could have been avoided, had the school heeded the proper warnings.

“Coaches and administrators weren’t familiar with this camp that they were going to and while they were at the camp, Cesar Chavez High School was told and warned by other people not to go swimming,” Taylor said.

Players were simply cooling off in the lake, but things went south due to Hampton’s poor swimming abilities. Arizona’s Family cited statements collected by detectives and the official police report that said Hampton’s skills in the water were “not great,” and that he was more “doggy-paddling” than swimming.

Taylor acknowledged the desire that schools have to create unique off-site opportunities for athletes but noted that for these experiences to be possible, it is the coaches and administrators who possess the “highest duty” to care for the safety of the students.

“Even if these policies were implemented prior to Christopher Hampton’s death, the fact that these coaches didn’t follow the policy, the fact that the administrators didn’t follow the policies, that is why Christopher Hampton is dead today,” Taylor said.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Maxwell Williams expects to graduate in Spring 2026 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in Spanish linguistic studies. Williams has written for the East Valley Tribune.

Anna De La Cruz AH-nuh de-la-KROOZ (she/hers)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Anna De La Cruz expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in digital audiences. De La Cruz has interned with Sun Devil Athletics, KVOA News 4 Tucson and the Cesar Chavez Foundation.