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Despite Greater Awareness, Violent Hazing Still A Problem In School Sports

For all the legitimate worries about concussions, what I was most concerned about when my son joined high school football, or even other sports and activities, was what would happen in the locker room or the bus. The sexual and other physical assaults that seem to happen with numbing regularity nationwide are referred to as “hazing,” but I guess I don’t have the imagination to figure out why sticking fingers or objects into someone’s most private orifices imparts some lesson about leadership and respect for elders.

Fortunately, so far, so safe for my son. But as the 2013-14 school sports year kicks off, already there are districts embroiled in so-called hazing scandals for past or present behavior. Over the past few years, some states have toughened anti-hazing laws, including my home state of Illinois, which added a failure-to-report criminal offense after high-profile hazing scandals at two suburban Chicago schools, including Maine West in Des Plaines, where two soccer coaches were fired, and one is under criminal indictment, for a soccer hazing scandal that has had at least five identified victims, three of whom have sued the school (one of whom did so in late August), saying it knew the hazing was going on and did nothing. The school is denying the claims made in the lawsuits.

On top of those laws, many districts also have made their policies more explicit when it comes to such activity, yet it still happens, with frequency and force. For example, three Somerville (Mass.) High School soccer players recently were arrested on rape charges after being accused of sexually assaulting three freshmen inside a cabin at a sleepaway camp excursion that also included the football and girls’ soccer teams. The school district said all players had to sign an anti-hazing form and were lectured on hazing during the bus trip to the camp. The attorney for at least one player says he will plead not guilty.

No wonder, then, that the National Federation of State High School Associations, which is made up of the state-level organizations that oversee high school sports, is stepping up its involvement in National Hazing Prevention Week, scheduled by HazingPrevention.org for Sept. 23-27. Laws and policies aren’t enough, and least not yet. Something more has to be done to let athletes (or those in band, cheerleading or any other school activity), parents, coaches, athletic directors, schools and the wider community know that violent assaults are wrong, and they’re still wrong when they’re done in the name of hazing. You might expect that otherwise, I’ll write more about it. Alas, I don’t write as much as you’d think because news, by definition, is something unusual, and hazing isn’t all that uncommon.

Does anyone want to share some ideas on how to prevent hazing?

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