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Those crazy, lazy, hazing days of summer: 14 things you should ask before you send that kid to camp.

Should You Send Your Child to Camp?
Um, maybe not THAT camp–at least NOT before you consider these 14 tips to protect him or her from hazing. By moderator Hank Nuwer:

Unless you’ve been living in a media-free cave the past few weeks, you’re aware that the adult son of an Arizona state senator was accused of sexual-hazing acts against 18 boys as young as 11 such as pushing a broomstock against their covered buttocks. Outraged parents are waiting for sentencing, but 18 counts have been reduced to one by a sympathetic prosecutor and court.

The fact that camp hazings of a serious nature are so few and far between should comfort a parent, but the few bad apples among camps (including football camps run by high schools) should make you wary–though not paranoid. Here are 13 things every parent should ask before leaving your camper and jumping into your van for home:

1) Has this camp been accredited by the American Camping Association? If so, it’s already agreed to adhere to a higher standard of care.

2) What training has been in place to prevent initiations, horseplay, hazing (There, you said it!) and hanky panky by campers or counselors? Can they DEFINE hazing?

3) Are there any rituals performed that the camp would rather not have videotaped and shown to a parent? Do they play Truth or Dare? If so, head out of there.

4) How does the camp treat a homesick camper?

5) What are the principles and values that guide the camp? Are these specifically stated in a mission statement or policy?

6) Is there a printed list of procedures and policies you can read? After stuffing that over-hyped brochure back into your pocket?

7) Is there adult supervision EVERYWHERE in camp, including the bathhouse, locker rooms, cabins, tents, swim area and buses used for field trips? Do the adults actively check or are they socializing?

8) Have any counselors or camp directors been terminated the last three years? What for?

9) Have any campers been sent home for disciplinary reasons the past three years? How many and for what reason?  (It’s not necessarily a BAD thing if the camp seems to have zero tolerance for serious transgressions.)

10) As you tour the premises, does anything in your gut bother you?  Check out everything. A good camp director answers questions openly.

11) How does the camp’s personnel feel about an unannounced visit from a parent? Not that you necessarily will do that, but see what you’re told and respond appropriately.

12) Visit the nurse and first-aid station. How savvy are the medical team members about recognizing signs of abuse?

13) See any neighbors living near the camp?  Stop and ask a few direct questions about their view of what’s happening down the road.  If they have a few stories, get back in that van and return to the director.

And, of course, there is the chance YOUR veteran son or daughter camper may be planning to haze someone else. Check what they pack. If they’re packing flour, whipped cream, eggs and alcohol, you need to take a proactive stance and prohibit these from ending up at camp. And you need to give other parents and the camp director a heads-up.

–Hank Nuwer, copyrighted 2006.  Free to link. And you may reprint or broadcast so long as you cite.

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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