Hazing rituals have been popular on American campuses for more than a century, but authorities are only beginning to crack down on the bad behavior now — and mostly only because public awareness of how bad hazing can get is more pervasive than it used to be. But are hazing rituals becoming common at high schools too?
A new scandal out of De La Salle High School has resulted in the indefinite suspension of at least three football players who, police say, will probably face criminal charges.
Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer said that the hazing ritual involved sexual harassment with broomsticks, but there was no obvious case of sexual assault. “There was no penetration,” he said. The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office will likely file charges after the police file their own report.
Dwyer described the three players as uncooperative. Their parents forbade them from speaking to the police without an attorney present. Other players on the team — apparently even those who have not been charged — have hired criminal defense attorneys because of the alleged incident.
Investigators interviewed 59 De La Salle High School football players and six other school officials, Dwyer said. According to the report the investigators will file, the players have been a united front against providing details, and only one victim has been located.
Dwyer said, “The students were very guarded … The coach indicated he had no knowledge whatsoever about the incident and that he wouldn’t tolerate it.” Of the kids, he continued: “We need their cooperation. We want their cooperation. … Hazing is a very serious issue.”
The allegations come at a bad time for the De La Salle High School football team, because they were scheduled to be in the playoffs the same day the authorities began their investigation. Because of the hazing incident, the school was forced to forfeit a separate game the night before.
The school notified parents via email: “We have recently discovered a series of hazing incidents conducted by several players on our varsity team. And many players on the team appear to have been aware of such hazing but failed to report it.”
That’s a good description of the larger problem — elsewhere, these incidents often go without notice until someone is seriously injured because students don’t step forward out of fear of retaliation. De La Salle said, “The hazing has deeper roots, and is more pervasive than originally thought.”
More details of the incident are expected in the coming days and weeks as the prosecutor’s office files charges against at least three players on the team.