Specs in the City: More Needed to Stop the Haze Craze

The hazing incident at Garfield High School last month has been met with differing responses, but I found the most shocking to be the apathetic parents and students that called hazing a “right of passage” and defended the actions as a part of high school life.

There are a lot of things that should be a part of high school life. Football games, for one. Dressing up in a ridiculous dress for Prom is another. Yearbook signing, awkward first dates, braces and even a failed assignment or two–these are the things students should associate with high school.

Hazing is not something I find particularly necessary to complete the high school experience. Don’t students have enough trouble finding their niche without being bullied into those groups?

Everyone does it, some people say. We’ve all been through it. My response to that is sure, and you hated it too. We want so badly to be a part of something that we are willing to go through hell to get that.

Over 100 students were involved in the hazing incident at Garfield High School on Capitol Hill. Underclassmen were forced to drink alcohol and wear diapers as they were paddled and had eggs thrown at them. Real nice tradition.

Many high schools report that their students have hazing rituals. Not all are incidents like that of Garfield, and the hazing can range to something as “harmless” as forcing newcomers to wear certain clothes or shirts. My high school’s sports teams would use orange hair spray to paint the freshmen’s hair on the first game day. It didn’t physically hurt them, but hazing relies on the ridicule of some at the enjoyment of others.

And I take issue with that.

So when does a “ritual” or a “tradition” turn into something hurtful and harmful? Where is the line between hazing and, say, bullying?
There isn’t one.

Eleven students were suspended immediately following the incident at Garfield, according to a statement from the school district. Of those students, six received short-term suspensions, three had long-term suspensions and two students had their expulsions revoked after they were said to be misidentified. All of the students are appealing their expulsions.

Garfield Principal Ted Howard and his staff are working to begin conversation around hazing and peer pressure, the statement said. But I can’t help but wonder–is that enough?

I don’t know what the solution is to hazing, but I do know that we have spent a lot of years talking about it.
In 2010, Washington passed anti-bullying legislation and many Seattle schools implemented a no tolerance policy. But it doesn’t seem to be working.

There needs to be a real voice against bullies and hazing and it can’t just come from the administration. Students need to find that voice, as do parents. There needs to be campaigns and banners, slogans and posters. There needs to be consequences.

I applaud Howard’s work within this difficult issue, but I encourage parents and students to also demand more from their children and peers.

High school is hard enough already.

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