High Schools Work to Build Awareness of Hazing - US News
Earlier this month, school officials at a high school in New Jersey canceled the remainder of the season for its championship-winning football team following allegations of hazing.
Upperclassmen on the football team at Sayreville War Memorial High School in Parlin, New Jersey, have been accused of sexually abusing freshmen players, according to a report on NJ.com.
Reports of high school hazing are widespread. According to a 2009 report from the Stop Hazing organization, 47 percent of college students surveyed said they were hazed while in high school.
One major issue is that hazing isn't always recognized as a problem, says Elizabeth Allan, a professor of higher education at the University of Maine and an author of the report.
Many so-called traditions or initiations meet the definition of hazing, "but people don’t see it as hazing," says Allan, who is also the president of Stop Hazing.
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Her organization defines hazing as any "activity expected of someone joining or participating in a group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers them, regardless of a person's willingness to participate." High school hazing occurs among sports teams, ROTC, band and performing arts groups, among other activities.
"Some people think of it as a type of group bullying, but that can be misleading," Allan says. Both share common dynamics concerning power and consent, but a key distinction is that hazing is about inclusion, while bullying is about exclusion.
High school officials should make sure they have a policy against hazing and not assume that their bullying policies will cover hazing, too, she says.
There are currently 44 states with anti-hazing laws, though Allan notes that some specifically target hazing at the college level.
Elliot Hopkins, a board member for the group HazingPrevention.Org, says that hazing prevention at high schools needs to involve the entire community. Efforts should include explaining what policies the school has in place to protect students, he says, because if more people understand them, more will speak up.
Coaches and other adult leaders need to make it clear that hazing will not be tolerated, says Hopkins, who is also the director of sports, sanctioning and educational services at the National Federation of State High School Associations, which helps oversee high school sports and activities.
"If you don't say the words to your kids, kids will take it, 'Hey, coach didn't say I couldn't beat the snot out of little Jimmy or make him drink urine or give him a wedgie or hang him outside the bus window. Coach didn't say we couldn't do it, so that must mean we can do it,''' he says.
Hopkins says that coaches have a responsibility to set an example because parents are mostly on the sidelines at the high school level.
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At Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, students in the community are encouraged to attend an education program to help prevent hazing and bullying from happening in the first place, says Marques Clayton, the school's athletic director, who started the program.
"We felt like, instead of waiting for something big to happen here at our school, that the time is right now," he says. "We wanted to create those procedures, protocols, educate our base here ahead of time."
Hopkins of HazingPrevention.Org says it is essential for hazing prevention to start early.
"We focus on colleges or the pros – where do you think they learn that from?" he says. "If you don't get it in check or take care of that business at the junior high, high school level, then we don't have that discussion once you get to college or professional sports. But if you leave it unabated, it just escalates."
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