High school hazing becomes issue in area


Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 at 1:28 a.m.
Two area high schools have punished varsity sports players for reported hazing incidents in the past month.
At Buchholz High, at least one player on the boys' soccer team was suspended from school and removed from the team, a school official said.
At Gainesville High, a separate hazing incident merited less serious attention from school officials, as five varsity boys' basketball players netted a one-game suspension from the team's coach.
At Buchholz, the hazing was linked to an initiation rite where at least one boy new to the soccer team this year was asked to take part in an embarrassing sexual act, The Sun has learned.
Buchholz Principal Vicente "Vince" Perez described the incident as an "initiation-type prank" that the school learned of just before winter break Dec. 17.
"We've dealt with it," he said. "It was a long process talking to all the students."
Perez said he also talked to soccer team parents before deciding the penalty.
"We wanted to send the message: That kind of behavior is not tolerated."
Perez declined to detail what "that kind of behavior" was, citing student confidentiality.
Both high school hazing incidents occurred while the teams were away from home at tournaments, school officials said.
The Buchholz incident occurred when the team was away for the Tallahassee Kickoff Classic the weekend of Dec. 4, Perez said.
An Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokesman said a report of the Buchholz incident was sent to the Leon County Sheriff's Office because it occurred in Tallahassee.
But it was not clear whether the Leon County will seek charges.
In the GHS episode, the boys varsity team was in St. Petersburg the week of Dec. 27 playing in the Hooters Holiday Shootout, officials said.
At least one new GHS player was asked to strip his clothes, The Sun learned.
Schools Superintendent Dan Boyd said he was aware of both cases and said the high schools reacted correctly.
As a former 24-year principal at GHS, Boyd said he doubted hazing was widespread. "I think it's just adolescent foolishness that occurs every now and then," Boyd said. "Coaches try to take steps to prevent it.
"It may be a trend and we may need to take steps to make sure youngsters understand we won't tolerate it," he added.
Hazing is an initiation or ritual a person is made to carry through in order to become part of a team, group or club. Hazing can be a harmless activity, such as having to carry a team's equipment.
But more humiliating hazing rituals at high schools are coming to light, said Hank Nuwer, author of the book "High School Hazing: When Rites Become Wrongs."
"It's a problem because it's so much more common now," said Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin College in Indiana.
"It's caught high school administrators unaware because they don't know how to respond," he said.
Administrators often want to "handle it in house" or assert that it's "a single isolated incident," he said.
Few high schools or districts have anti-hazing policies, Nuwer said. Instead, many schools are forced to react to incidents as they learn about them.
Compare that to major colleges and universities, which typically have developed procedures aimed at preventing hazing, he said.
The University of Florida lists hazing as a banned activity that carries penalties should students be caught.
Fraternity members at UF are asked to sign an "anti-hazing contract" that states "hazing is not tolerated in any form."
In 2000, Alfred University of Alfred, N.Y., published a study on hazing. Of more than 1,500 high school students polled, 48 percent said they had been hazed.
Nearly all students who were hazed were subjected to humiliation, according to the study. Of the students subjected to humiliating hazing, just under half were subjected to only humiliating behaviors, while the rest also were expected to engage in substance abuse or other dangerous acts.
Douane D. James can be reached at (352) 374-5087 or jamesd@gvillesun.com.

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