I don’t usually say in hindsight I told you so, but this case is so costly for students and the school alike that I just want to state that the tradition should have been banned by a written policy long ago.Â Deerfield stands as a cautionary tale for all school administrators and athletic directors who know that one of these inane traditions continues.Â I would have you research the toilet paper incident in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the early 1990s when some Huron girls in a car racing from a toilet papering ended up in a pond and drowned, unable to get out.Â I’m with the administration on this one, but I do understand the frustration of parents if this was an annual affair well known to either Deerfield coaches or administrators. If they did NOT know about it, they were not asking the simple questions every administrator and coach and athletic director OUGHT to ask about team “traditions” and so-called team building or bonding. Hank Nuwer
Deerfield parents dispute hazing, fight swimmers’ suspension
By Emily S. Achenbaum
February 26, 2009
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A parent of a swimmer on Deerfield High School’s boys swim team wants the school to reinstate his son and a dozen other senior swimmers, who were suspended from the team after a hazing complaint, he says.
School officials have declined to discuss the swim team case, citing student privacy, and the reason for the suspensions remains unclear.
All the students involved have appealed, said Marjie Sandlow, a Township High School District 113 Board member, at a board meeting Monday. An independent company has been hired to handle the appeal process, she said.
“I think the bottom line is, we’re interested in student safety, and I think if there has been any kind of a question or practice … in the eyes of our school it was considered hazing,” Sandlow said. “Even a simple hazing can lead to more serious consequences for students today.”
Steve Brew, parent of one of the seniors, said the team held a dinner Feb. 6 honoring the seniors. Annual tradition holds that after the dinner, freshman swimmers toilet-paper seniors’ homes, and seniors attempt to “capture” the freshmen, whom they then drive around town, Brew said.
“It’s essentially a game,” he said. “Some refer to it as team building.”
But someone complained this year and called it hazing, Brew said. Within days, the school district had interviewed every team member and decided to suspend all the seniors from future swim meets, he said.
The incident “completely met the definition of hazing,” said board member Helene Herbstman.
School district spokeswoman Carol Votsmier said only that there had been an “incident,” and that the students involved had been disciplined.
Deerfield Police Deputy Chief Rick Wilk said his department received no complaints about senior night, and as a courtesy, parents let police know in advance that kids would be toilet-papering houses that night, Wilk said. He said the department hasn’t been told of any wrongdoing.
Freelance writer Brian Cox contributed to this report.
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