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Heidi Collins and Hank Nuwer interview

Criminal Charges Might be Filed in Weekend Hazing Incident

CNN AMERICAN MORNING 07:00

May 8, 2003 Thursday

 

Byline: Bill Hemmer, Heidi Collins

 

Guests: Lauren, Marina, Rollin Soskin, Hank Nuwer


Highlight: Two girls who were injured in the hazing incident discuss their ordeal. Author Hank Nuwer discusses the extent of the problem nationwide.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Criminal charges might be filed in the weekend hazing incident in North Brook, Illinois. What started as a touch football game between high school girls turned into an all out assault.

How did it get so out of control?

Two girls say they were victims. Lauren and Marina are their first names. They are our guests live today, and they are juniors at Glenbrook North High School. They’re joined there by their attorney, Rollin Soskin.

To Lauren and Marina, I know you don’t want your last names used, so we will respect that.

Lauren first, you went to the hospital. What happened to you?

LAUREN, SAYS SHE WAS HAZED: I was strangled and choked and I was kicked in the head repeatedly. I went to the hospital. I had a concussion. I’m waiting for X-rays on my face in case I have broken facial bones. I was kicked in the back, kicked in the ribs. My throat hurts, my voice is hoarse. I can’t swallow, really, and eat too much.

HEMMER: How many times would you say you’ve been kicked?

LAUREN: I was kicked probably at least 15 times in the head.

HEMMER: Was that done by all girls or were there any boys involved in that?

LAUREN: It was all girls and one guy.

HEMMER: One guy? What was he doing?

LAUREN: He was helping out his friends, I guess.

HEMMER: What happened to your face, Lauren?

LAUREN: I, they had put a bucket over my head and started kicking it. They kicked me in the forehead and in the side of my face and my jaw. I was whipped with a sweatshirt. They put pig intestines around my neck and started smacking me in the face with them and pulled on them to choke me and strangle me.

HEMMER: Did you know all the girls involved and the boy?

LAUREN: Yes.

HEMMER: Yes.

Marina, what happened to you?

MARINA: I was repeatedly kicked and punched. They ripped out a piercing from my ear, leaving me with temporary loss of hearing in my left ear. They gave me contusions on my head. They kicked my tailbone to the point where it fractured. I have bruised ribs and just multiple scars all over my body.

HEMMER: Marina, at any point did you or Lauren try to stop this?

MARINA: We, there was no way to really stop it. I just pretty much sate there hoping it would end or I would die or someone would just pull me out of there, because there was 17 of us and there was like 40 of them.

HEMMER: What did you expect, Marina, to take place that day?

MARINA: I just expected small things, ketchup, mustard in our hair, just small like whipped cream, small hazing, nothing serious. They promised us that they we wouldn’t be physically damaged.

HEMMER: Yes, Lauren, had, what — first of all, what did you expect to happen?

LAUREN: I expected pretty much the same thing as Marina, a little bit of hazing, a little bit of yelling. I didn’t expect any physical violence at all.

ROLLIN SOSKIN, ATTORNEY: And that’s important.

HEMMER: And that leads me to my next question — and I’ll get to your attorney in a moment here. But I’m curious to know, has this been a tradition in years past? And if so, what had you known about it?

LAUREN: I knew if you got up to try to run away then they would find you. They’d knock you back down. You’d have three or four girls running after you. So I was told if something happens just sit there, cover your face and hopefully it’ll end sooner than you think.

HEMMER: So how much information did you have going into it based on previous tradition about this football game that took place on Sunday afternoon?

MARINA: We knew enough.

LAUREN: Exactly.

MARINA: We knew enough to the point where we knew that it was supposed to be a football game. This has been a tradition in our school, to play football, not to be beaten up and put into the hospital.

HEMMER: Yes, and based on, you know, talking with your other classmates, had it ever gone this far in the past, last year, the year before?

MARINA: Last year a girl tried to run away and some girls ran after her and beat her up kind of bad.

LAUREN: There was one girl…

MARINA: Yes.

LAUREN: This was five, six, seven girls all hurt.

MARINA: Ganging up on one girl last year. But as far as everything else goes, it’s never been this bad. No one’s been physically hurt this bad.

HEMMER: But as far as the bucket on top of the student’s head, as far as the pig intestines, had you heard stories about this in the past?

MARINA: No.

LAUREN: No. My friends who are older, 19, 20, who’ve been going, watching these for years told me this is the worst year they’ve ever seen it. They’ve never seen anything even close to like this year.

HEMMER: Rollin Soskin, you’re the attorney. What are you hearing right now from the school and will you bring a lawsuit?

SOSKIN: Well, what we’ve seen and heard from the school so far is them distancing themselves as much as possible from any responsibility for what went on. I anticipate a lawsuit will be filed, certainly against the individual perpetrators. If I could say, there was some random hazing here, but based on what we’ve seen on the tapes and what we’ve learned through our own investigation, we believe there was some premeditated, premeditation on the part of some of the attackers to go after some specific victims.

Nobody brings a baseball bat or a paint pellet gun to a powder- puff football game. This football game never got started. This was a vicious attack. Some of the tapes that have been on TV don’t do any justice to what really happened here. If you could see some of the tapes, you’d see this was a lynching. The things that went on here are appalling and disgusting and nothing but vicious attacks by specific girls. Well…

HEMMER: And, sir, if I could take just the converse, their school was already saying this happened on a Sunday, it did not take place on school property. Can the school be excused from responsibility in this incident?

SOSKIN: Well, they may or may not have a legal defense or immunity. We’re investigating those facts. But morally they knew this game had gone on for years. They knew there had been other incidents. They knew that the girls wore these jerseys that they had made up. They knew the game was going to be occurring over the weekend and for them to claim that they didn’t know about it and that they didn’t know when and where it was is just disingenuous.

HEMMER: Rollin Soskin, the attorney for Lauren and Marina, two juniors at that high school just outside of Chicago.

Best of luck on your recovery.

Thanks for sharing your story with us today.

MARINA: Thank you.

LAUREN: Thanks.

HEMMER: All right.

SOSKIN: Thank you.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: You know, you have to wonder what would happen if they didn’t go at all, because I know that those girls ended up having to pay, the juniors ended up having to pay money to be there and to actually partake in this.

HEMMER: I’ve got to think this is not the last of it.

COLLINS: No, it’s probably not.

All right, we are going to talk a little bit more about it, as a matter of fact. Many people watched the hazing incident in horror, including one witness who spoke to us a little bit earlier this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICH BABB, WITNESSED HAZING: Once I noticed some senior girls taking it upon themselves to start, I don’t know, punishing the junior girls in a way that wasn’t really the way that powder-puff is all about, such as like fighting and punching and throwing buckets at their head.

I kind of knew it was a fun time turning into an anger driven time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: So how could girls or anyone, for that matter, do this to their own classmates?

Hank Nuwer is the author of three books on hazing. The most recent is titled “Broken Pledges.”

He’s joining us now this morning from Indianapolis.

Thanks for being here, sir.

HANK NUWER, AUTHOR, “BROKEN PLEDGES”: Thank you.

COLLINS: I want to ask you, let’s put in perspective for a moment this incident. We know this has been going on for a long time at this school, but how widespread is this sort of violence?

NUWER: Well, we know that publicly by tracking incidents we can get anywhere from 35 to 50 incidents a year. But that’s sort of a tip of the bucket as to what’s really occurring in numbers. Studies by Alfred University show that among athletes, for example, about 44 to 46 percent will tell you that their hazing started in high school or junior high school.

COLLINS: And we’re kind of used to hearing about it at the college level and between men. But the high school level and between girls, why is that happening? Is this a trend?

NUWER: Well, I think more than a trend. I think we’re seeing societal activities that are shifting and changing. In the ’80s, you rarely heard about cases of hazing incidents or hazing deaths. There were two hazing deaths in sorority reported up to the year 2002. And there were two reported in 2002, and a lot more incidents involving paddling or actually branding by young women and so forth.

I think as women gain parity in the workplace, gain status with men, we have to watch out and be aware as educators that some adverse rituals may be creeping into our initiations.

COLLINS: Hank, we’ve been talking this morning a little bit about the fact that the incident did happen off school property, so we’ll hear, I’m sure, in days to come statements from the school officials about their responsibility.

What about the responsibility of the parents?

NUWER: Well, it’s interesting, in terms of the school first, in that a lot of attorneys tell schools to distance themselves if they have too much of a duty to care, if they get too involved, that they may be responsible.

In terms of the parents, it’s a whole lot of responsibility to work through the PTA, to be aware, to have educational programs that try to head this off. And if parents see their son or daughter heading off in a football shirt with paraphernalia, a pellet gun, for goodness sakes, then they need to step in and halt it. It should have never gotten to this stage.

COLLINS: All right, Hank Nuwer, we certainly appreciate your insight.

NUWER: Thank you.

COLLINS: Author of “Broken Pledges,” coming to us from Indianapolis this morning.

 

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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