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Disturbing hazing incidents revealed by East Lisbon mother of wrestler unhappy with Lisbon’s own investigation.

Here is only the q and a section from reporter Chris Earl’s informative local investigation. The link is well worth the reader’s time. Excellent reporting, Chris Earl, and Source Media. Excellent persistency on part of the reporter Earl. Moderator

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Full transcript of the Friday evening interview with the mother of a Lisbon Lions wrestler.  She agreed to speak with us, on the condition that her identity not be revealed.

Q: Tell me why would are talking about the incidents at this point.

”I want to encourage our youth that they need to stand up for themselves and they need to stand up for their teammates, whether youre directly or indirectly involved in matters of hazing.  The success of your team starts and ends with you.  I want the general public to know there’s two sides to every story.  Right now, my son wasn’t given a voice in our district and I am his voice.”

Q: What did your son experience, as a younger wrestler and this year?

“(For the 2010-11 season), five days before the season opened up, my son was injured and it required surgical repair and it will require another surgery to remove the screws in his collarbone and it occurred in an unsupervised wrestling room and it took him out of eligibility for an entire season.  He didn’t encounter any acts other than that one but he did see other episodes of hazing going on.  I took the matter of his injury to the district and I communicated, clearly, that it wasn’t a wrestling injury and something was happening in the wrestling room and it was unsupervised.  What the school did with that is not something I can answer to.  I do know that, in the current allegations, they were occurring in an unsupervised wrestling room.  It doesn’t appear to me that anything was addressed in that matter.

Q: And for the incident this year?

”I choose not to comment because our school officials did a very short-lived, what they call, through investigation in which they only talked to a handful of the wrestlers on that team.  They closed their case without the voice of those they accused and without the voices of some of those not accused.  They don’t know who the victims truly are and they don’t truly know what went on and I’m not going to feed it to them through this interview.”

Q: Do you feel there is a code of silence to follow among hazing activities with the wrestling program?

“I don’t know how you define it.  Is there silence?  There is silence but I don’t think it’s anything that’s written or anything that’s verbally agreed upon.  My opinion is that it’s a learned behavior from what has been seen through the years and it is acceptance of the behaviors.  It is more about personal strength and defying any weakness, a rite of passage into being accepted on the team.

Q: How difficult has this made your life in the community?

“It’s opened up a chapter of parenting I never thought I would live.  As far as my position in the community, I’m not a juvenile looking for acceptance, not an alumni of the district itself.  I’ve established my roots in the community and in the church community and I’ve found my acceptance in the people of the congregation and my friends and peers who have similar morals and values.  I would say our community is divided and I wouldn’t say it’s divided in half.  There’s fingers pointing every which way because there’s been no truth.  More silence than truth spoken about the occurrence.”

“I have found a unity among an awesome group of mothers of student athletes, whether accused or not.  We found some unity in this.

Q: What do wish the school district would do?

“Moving forward, there are some suggestions I have for them.  I wish they had given these students their due process that they are required to, by law.  Every one of these students should have been spoken to.  Not just a handful on the wrestling team.  Every participant, whether they were directly or indirectly involved, should have had a voice in this matter.  Going matter, they should ensure they put some aim in their investigation before they start firing with suspensions, that they rewrite and revisit their policies to include a matter as large as this.  That they hold their administrators to the same standards of conduct that they hold their juveniles to.  Their students are being held more accountable than their administrators on conduct right now and I wish to see these administrators resign.”

Q: Is hazing something that needs to stop?

“It absolutely does need to stop.  My question is ‘how are you going to get it to stop?’  You have all of these reality TV shows and these networks where you have inappropriate behaviors going on these kids can view online with the technology we have, watching TV.  How can you stop kids being kids other than educating them?  This really doesn’t begin in the homes with the parents.  This goes deeper into the coaches, instilling into the students that you need to watch what you’re doing.”

”When I was a juvenile myself, it was the simple snap of a towel and that can cause welts and bruising that somebody could construe as an assault.  Even something innocent anymore kids can’t get away with what we could get away with.

”It needs to stop.  I hope the kids will step up to the plate and protect one another and protect themselves.

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Full transcript of Thursday afternoon interview with Cory Connell, Eddyville-Blakesburg High School varsity wrestling head coach:

CORY CONNELL

EDDYVILLE-BLACKSBURG HIGH SCHOOL ROCKETS  6th Year

On the recent incidents around the sport:

“I don’t think its good for the sport.  As a coach, I’ve touched on with my team and have talked about it.  I think it’s a learning moment for all of them to understand that any time there’s something good or bad in the world to talk about it and let them know what my expectations are as a coach, as a program and as a school.  What our expectations are and we have high expectations.  We want them to be the best individuals they can be.”

On promoting a positive environment within the program:

“Being the best we can be on and off the mat.  24/7.  We want to be the best wrestlers we can be but I think it’s the best people we can be and, like I said, it’s on and off the mat.”

On the atmosphere of wrestling when he was a student:

“(Iowa) City High is a great program.  I didn’t many issues when I was there.  I didn’t hear about many issues.”

”We have a great bunch of kids here and around the state and kids knowing the expectations and what’s right and what’s wrong.  A couple of bad isolated incidents around the state have shed a negative light but I think wrestling is really positive.”

On “doing the right thing”:

“It’s great for me and a lot of people I know.  Wrestling coaches are out there trying to get “you need to do the right thing”, telling my kids about this and what’s right and what’s wrong.”

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UNI Associate Professor of the School of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Services Jennifer Waldron has released these publications in her studies of hazing/bullying in high school athletics:

“Duct Tape, Icy Hot and Paddles: Sport, Education and Society”, 2011

“Looking The Other Way: Athletes’ Perceptions of Coaches’ Responses to Hazing”, Christopher Kowalski and Jennifer Waldron, 2010

“Crossing The Line: Rites of Passage, Team Aspects and Ambiguity of Hazing”, Christopher Kowalski and Jennifer Waldron, 2009

Transcript from Jennifer Waldron interview:

“I was an athlete myself in college and high school.  I was hazed as a college athlete.  I’ve been interested in the experiences of athletes.  I’ve taken my own experience and said what is going on with hazing right now.”

On whether this is common in wrestling:

“I think it’s happening across all sports – and very community specific and team specific.  I think it’s a huge coincidence that it’s wrestling right now…they’re all in season.  For many schools in Iowa, wrestling is the privileged team and we tend to see hazing being associated with that status.  Most people don’t necessarily associate hazing with bullying.”

On getting people to go ’on-the-record’ about hazing:

“Very difficult to get people to understand why you’re interested in it and I’m not trying to expose problems but if we really care about our athletes, which we should, we need to be talking about this as an issue.  I love athletics!  That’s why I’m in physical education.  I love sport.  I’m not anti-athlete but we need to make sure we’re creating environments where our athletes excel and have a positive environment.

“We see this across all sports.  Some of the athletes in cross country or swimmers, they have pretty intense hazing situations.”

Examples?  “Walking naked, swimming naked, having alcohol and going off a diving board.  Those are dangerous situations, being hog-tied and being thrown in a river.  That was a cross country runner.  Being hog-tied and thrown into a river is dangerous and harmful.  Being urinated on in the shower is a common one for male athletes.  Being hit with weights.”

Why so secretive?

”It’s this open secret and because historically we’ve thought of hazing as boys being boys, harmless fun and we all gel together as a team.  It’s still happening and people don’t want to talk about it and turn a blind eye.”

Why do some coaches condone it?

“Coaches have experienced hazing and they view it as part of the sport experience.”

“It is interesting is that hazing in sport research is young.  Talking with coaches hasn’t happened a lot.  I ask athletes what coaches did to stop hazing and they say ‘they knew it was going on and just said don’t hurt anyone and make sure no one finds out and it’ll be okay.”

 

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By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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