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Grand Rapids paper: Father thinks punishment for son’s being sodomized in hazing not enough

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Hazing victim’s dad sizzles as teen gets probation
Friday, August 03, 2007
By John Tunison
The Grand Rapids Press

WEST OLIVE — A father lashed out at a Coopersville teen Thursday for his role in a school hazing that left his son — one of two victims — ostracized from the community

“He has destroyed our lives, my parents’ lives,” said the father, whose son was on the junior varsity baseball team when others held him down, touched his genitals and violated him in other ways. “My parents are crying all the time. Our house is up for sale because of this and what he has done.”

He spoke moments before Ottawa County juvenile court Referee Babara Forman sentenced Scott Howard Bush, 15, to six months of probation, 14 hours of community service and counseling as ordered by a court psychologist.
Bush, who pleaded guilty Thursday to gross indecency, is one of four teen-agers charged in the hazings that happened at least 13 times during a four- to six-week period in April and May.

The other teens, Rob Miller, Zane Schaefer and Josh Schoenborn, are awaiting trial.

All were expelled from Coopersville Public Schools for a minimum of one year, with the possibility of applying for readmission for the 2008-2009 year. School administrators also ordered 80 hours of community service.

Prosecutors said Bush was responsible for violating one of the victims.

That victim’s father, who was in a small hearing room with his wife to hear the sentencing, wanted a tougher punishment.

“In order for him to be repentant, there has to be real justice, a real penalty,” he said, reciting hazing acts his son endured, including one incident involving a toothbrush used in his rectal area.

“This young man has shown no remorse for us,” the father said. “And he has shown no remorse toward” the victim.

Bush admitted to some acts as part of the plea, but said little else.

He began weeping as the father talked about the incidents he estimated happened much more than 13 times. Others sat on his son’s face with bare bottoms, the father said, and slapped him in the belly to make his skin turn pink.

An Ottawa County Family Court caseworker who recommended probation said the punishment was appropriate, especially since Bush has no criminal past nor history of behavior problems.

“This is not a young man who has had a pattern of delinquency,” caseworker Dirk Schmitt said. “I would call him a pretty stellar student, if you isolated him from this incident.

Schmitt said he thinks Bush will learn from the mistake.

“I think he is appropriately mortified by the situation. It’s been a difficult reality for him,” he said.

The victim’s father said his son has few or no friends left at school, and the family wants to move away from the area to make a fresh start. He said his 13-year-old daughter is distraught over the plan, fearing she will not adjust at a new school.

“But I don’t want my son here because of the things that are being done and said to him,” he said.

Bush’s attorney, Joe Legatz, said the teen is remorseful.

“I think some of the kids did it out of fear that if they didn’t, they would be the recipients,” he said. “Scott was certainly not a leader in this.”

Legatz questioned how the hazing perpetuated itself over weeks and whether parents need to be more connected with their children.

“You have to wonder how it could develop this far,” he said.

Bush will not be placed on the state’s juvenile sex-offender registry because gross indecency is not an offense covered by the law.

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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