Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Four Hayden High School seniors reported to have hazed seven incoming freshmen will be given the option of a diversion program in lieu of a criminal trial, District Attorney Bonnie Roesink said Tuesday.
On June 6, police said four Hayden seniors hit seven freshmen with an object that has been described both as a paddle and a club. The apparatus reportedly was made in a high school wood shop class.
Roesink met with Hayden Police Chief Ray Birch on Tuesday to discuss what shape the program might take. An existing diversion program for first-time juvenile defenders requires that juveniles admit guilt, sign a contract, perform community service and be monitored by a diversion officer, among other things.
Birch said the diversion program being developed to address hazing will involve about 40 hours of community service and require the four students to have an educational discussion with other students about the dangers of hazing. Birch said he is continuing discussions with parents, school personnel, coaches and the students involved to determine what other elements to include in the program. The District Attorney’s Office would hold ultimate approval over the program.
“We’re still in the formative stages,” Birch said.
Roesink has passed the case to Deputy District Attorney Andy Heyl, and Birch said the potential charges of third degree assault and criminal harassment would be brought should any of the teens fail to meet the requirements of the diversion program. Heyl declined to comment on the case.
Birch said a diversion program has the potential to better address the issue of hazing in Hayden, which both he and Roesink see as a persistent and systemic problem.
“You can punish a few people criminally for their behavior, but it’s not going to change the culture that exists when we talk about high school hazing,” Birch said. “It’s much bigger than a few kids.”
This suspected hazing incident follows a March 2006 hazing in which Hayden High School students branded younger students with a heated wire coat hanger at a party. Four Hayden teens were sentenced to five days in jail in that case.
Larry Combs, a Steamboat Springs attorney who defended one of the teens in that case, said he doesn’t understand why a diversion program is being offered this time around.
“I question how it’s being consistent,” Combs said. “I would suggest that substantial physical injuries could result from paddling as well. I’m not sure what rationale the DA’s Office is using.”
Luppes said any further investigation by the school district would be put off while the police and District Attorney’s Office work on the case.