Tuesday, November 15, 2011

High school hazing worries educators

Michael Alison Chandler
The Washington Post
November 14, 2011

The principal of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School said she tried for years to rein in hazing during homecoming week. One day each fall, older students would shower ninth-graders with paint, pelt them with ketchup, yell “Go back to Westland!” — the local middle school — and occasionally rough them up.

Karen Lockard banned spray paint on campus. She brought in an anti-bullying expert for an assembly. She encouraged classroom discussions about values.

None of that stopped this year’s Color Day spirit event from becoming, once again, “freshman beat-down day.” One student went to a hospital after being assaulted, and many wound up plastered in paint. It got so out of hand that Lockard canceled next year’s Color Day. “It’s hard to change tradition,” she said.

The episode last month in Montgomery County underscored that hazing persists in Washington area high schools, despite efforts to stamp it out.

“Whether you call it hazing or rites of passage, I’ve seen unacceptable behavior in high schools,” said Montgomery Superintendent Joshua P. Starr. “Our older kids should be helping our younger students succeed in school, not making them feel afraid.”

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