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Raising–er–Hazing Arizona. Do the Math: 39 felonies + political pressure = 1 misdemeanor (Editorial by Moderator Hank Nuwer)

Opinion by Hank Nuwer

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk has taken pokes at TV and print coverage criticizing her handling of the hazing/manhandling incident at the Arizona Association of Junior High Students Council camp.

She’s said the incident was only about power, not about sex.

OK, what’s your point, Ms. Polk? If they had shoved the boys into a locker, they’d have been charged with assault also. If they had done this on school grounds, they’d have been eligible for hazing charges–even under Arizona’s weak (compared to Florida and New York) hazing law. Do you have any doubt that the odds of at least one of those 18 boys needing long-term counseling as a result of this unfortunate episode is high. The laws of unintended consequences also may find the abused becoming the abusers—and that’s not only scary, it’s dead wrong.

Bottom line: They used their hands, and a broomstick-turned-weapon, to abuse those boys put in their trust. Bottom line: hazing is a human rights abuse, condemned by all whether it’s the Russian military or high school hazing.

Is it fair that they would have received more sentence time for animal abuse had they done the same thing to 18 dogs?

Isn’t it sexism that their charges are lighter because the abuse was male-on-male instead of male-on-female? Clearly, this is a case of Might winning out over Right as the cause of human rights just took a tumble.

Hazing used to be dismissed by judges and prosecutors as a matter of boys being boys. No more—or so I thought. Since the public is now resigned to the fact that justice was miscarried, it is time for Ms. Polk to rethink her flawed reasoning…and to resign.

It is easier for me to feel sympathy for the senator whose son is charged if he made a few phone calls and called in some political chips to influence the judicial process. Every father, every mother, would feel the same pit in the center of the gut if his or her child was accused of 39 felonies of a sexual nature.

It is harder to feel empathy for Ms. Polk, a public servant charged with protecting that public who had the duty to rise above politics in the interest of justice.

And it is even harder to stomach how Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has distanced himself from this case with his whaddya-gonnna-do statements.

The parents of the young men should urge Arizona’s legislature to grasp the OTHER end of the broom to sweep Polk and Goddard out of office

Here’s how another journalist views the AZ case.

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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