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Virden HS case linked to part of a larger national problem

Moderator: This article below may be of interest to you in the context of looking at the rash of recent incidents of a similar nature reported in recent weeks and months on this blog and high school hazing web site. Simply scroll down to previous entries at the bottom of this page to see additional cases recently in the news. What is worse is that some school incidents such as East Carter High School barely rate a media mention.

Here is the excerpt below:

Hazings in high school involving sex prevalent

October 7, 2007
Bruce Rushton, GateHouse News Service

SPRINGFIELD – It sounds shocking.

High school athletes touching underclassmen’s faces with genitals or bare buttocks. Kids forced to touch others’ private parts. Truth or dare.

But high school hazing with sexual overtones isn’t unusual.

Hank Nuwer, a professor at Franklin College in Indiana who has been tracking hazing incidents since the 1970s, says he first heard about sexually abusive hazing in a high school setting in 1983. Since then, he said, reports have become common.

“The sexual assaults are pretty much constant since 1995,” said Nuwer, a journalism professor whose interest stems from a hazing death at a Nevada university where he went to graduate school. “I hear about one about once a week. There are so many instances of this in small towns now that every principal and every coach ought to be awake to it.”

• Three football players in Salt Lake City were thrown off the team, expelled from school and charged with felonies for allegedly touching another player’s face with genitals in late August and early September.

• In Michigan, a 15-year-old pleaded guilty to gross indecency last month, the third of four high school baseball players charged in a hazing.

• In Missouri, a half-dozen high school basketball players have been charged with crimes and a school district is facing a lawsuit following an alleged June hazing at a summer basketball camp that plaintiffs say involved sexual abuse.

Though he lives in Indiana, Nuwer, who documents hazing incidents in a blog, knows about Virden High School, in central Illinois, where an incident involving a senior who reportedly touched his genitals to the face of a freshman football player has rocked the town of 3,500 residents. A second player allegedly was jumped after the first, but another player stepped in and stopped it with no sexual contact occurring.

Virden school officials refuse to say exactly what happened, although they don’t dispute the list of the reports that are common knowledge around town. One thing is clear: Virden High School wasn’t prepared.

The school’s hazing policy is just nine words long: “Soliciting, encouraging, aiding or engaging in hazing is prohibited.”

By contrast, a model hazing policy published by the National Federation of State High School Associations is two pages long and contains seven sections. Besides defining what hazing is, the policy requires witnesses to alert officials, who are required to take appropriate action against anyone who retaliates against a witness or anyone else who assists with a hazing investigation.

In Virden, district officials say they will revise student handbooks and curriculums to address hazing.

Deciding how to respond to hazing incidents can be difficult, and the difficulty often ratchets up when sexually inappropriate behavior is involved.

“We think there’s certainly a prevalence of that type of behavior,” said Norman Pollard, dean of students at Alfred University in New York state. “There are some school districts that do absolutely nothing – they view it as boys being boys, the tradition of the team. The other extreme is where there’s not only school action, but criminal notification as well.”

Virden school officials called police but did not file a formal complaint or ask for an investigation.

Link to rest of article

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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