The charges against the three football players identify the four alleged victims only by initials and say they are 14 or 15 years old.
After the hazing case surfaced, the Hutchinson school district released a statement on Nov. 1 saying that before practice Oct. 31, Dreiling learned that a hazing incident might have occurred. “Dreiling did an initial investigation and then turned the matter over to HHS administrators and Hutchinson Police to investigate,” the statement said. Before Oct. 31, it said, “Coach Dreiling made two announcements during team meetings that hazing would not be tolerated in any form. This is the week when some freshmen move up to the varsity squad, and the coach made the announcements to make it clear hazing was not tolerated.”
In the interview Friday, Kiblinger said the coach issued the admonition against hazing, “as I believe he does each year,” because “he knows that the temptation could exist when they have the freshmen move up.”
Kiblinger said her understanding is that the alleged hazing occurred in a boys locker room.
The coat hanger allegedly used to burn the freshmen was heated by friction caused by flexing the wire, Schroeder has said.
Fee, the father who has had three sons in the football program, said, “Promoting this type of stuff (hazing) is the furthest thing from Coach Dreiling. Most of the kids over there would tell you that,” said Fee, himself a former Hutchinson player and coach and now CEO of the Fee Insurance Group.
The Kansas state law against hazing is K.S.A. 21-5418. In the criminal complaint filed in court against each of the two 18-year-olds, hazing is defined as “unlawfully and recklessly coercing, demanding or encouraging another person to perform, as a condition of membership in a social or fraternal organization, any act which could reasonably be expected to result in great bodily harm, disfigurement or death or which is done in a manner whereby great bodily harm, disfigurement or death could be inflicted.”
Schroeder, the district attorney, said that under the definition of the crime of hazing, there doesn’t have to be an actual injury, “just that it was done in a manner whereby it could be reasonably expected to result” in injury.
Hank Nuwer, an Indiana journalism professor who has written four books on hazing and monitors hazing incidents around the world, said the Kansas hazing law sounds “better than most,” as far as being enforceable.
The key to defining hazing in legal terms is the recklessness or risk of the action, Nuwer said. Hazing, he said, is something “that an ordinary person would consider … risky or reckless or dangerous … and bizarre.” And the case alleged in Hutchinson seems to fit that definition, he said.
In 1924, he said, there was an incident in Brooklyn, N.Y., in which high school students used silver nitrate to brand freshmen.
Rick Wheeler, a longtime former Kansas high school football coach and now athletic director at Wichita Heights High School, said coaches have a number of motivations not to tolerate hazing or anything close to it. He said he is a friend of Dreiling, the Hutchinson coach, and isn’t commenting on the Hutchinson investigation.
For one thing, Wheeler said, “Coaches don’t have time to have goofy rituals.” And coaches hate distractions, he said. High school coaches, in particular, take seriously their responsibility to protect their athletes, he said. “You’re seen as being the guardian for (someone’s) child while they are in your care.”