Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hazing with a chance of fallout

I opened the Boston Globe this morning to a front page story headline, "Girls accused of hazing suspended from soccer game."The story describes this suburban town's high school girls varsity soccer team tradition of initiating and welcoming the freshman girls by having the senior girls lead them around the soccer field blindfolded on a dog leash, and ending with some sort of whipped pie in the face. The uproar in the town seems to be less about the hazing and more that the team lost the regional championship because of these senior girls suspension from playing in this championship game.  Whew, did you get all that?

The high school apparently has an iron-clad no-hazing rule, but the parents of the suspended girls felt the rule had not been fully articulated to the girls, and thus the girls shouldn't be held accountable with such a severe punishment of disallowing them to play in this important game. The litigation gloves came out, and one of the dad/lawyers filed a restraining order against the high school principal, and the athletic director of the town. Really, a restraining order, talk about blaming the victim here. So it's not the blindfolded girls who were made to roll around a muddy cold field on a leash, and then have pie thrown in their faces who are the victims, it is the senior girls, on their way to college soccer scholarships who need this game to impress the college coaches and now can't play because they broke a rule they sorta kinda didn't really know about.

Oy, what a mess. What is a parent to do in this situation? The parents of the hazed girls I'm guessing are furious. Who is watching out for their girls, where was the coach when this was going on, is there an adult in charge?? All questions I'm sure the principal of the school was  hammered with by these parents. Then the parents of the suspended girls; their girls made a mistake, no one was hurt (of course hurt by humiliation is usually carried around on the inside not the outside, so how would they know?), they didn't know they weren't supposed to do this, and missing the most important game of their soccer career in high school, is just too too much, I am sure they opined.

True, the adults should have made absolutely clear all the students understood this no-hazing rule. If it is just in a handbook, my guess is most kids and parents never open that book and perhaps a signed pledge of no-hazing should be signed by all students prior to playing any sports. But what I am thinking is that these senior girls did kinda sorta know about this rule, and that some of their parents had kinda sorta heard their girls talking and planning for this hazing event.  I'm guessing this whole event occurred under cover of darkness, which in itself implies guilt, because otherwise they would have done it in the light of day, after school, people milling around to cheer them on.

We all love a good right of passage. I love birthdays, bat mitzvah, confirmations, the first day of school, etc. School life is full of them, award ceremonies, graduations, and I guess in the past, hazing and initiation rituals. Being a senior in high school is a year full of long awaited, "its finally my turn". Maybe you finally get that speaking role in the school play that you have been in for 4 years usually lost in the crowd scenes while seniors got all the good parts, or maybe its the school council, you finally get to be president, or yes maybe that sports team, and the memory of your own freshman year being the leashed dog. But this year, this is my year, and I kinda sorta know we shouldn't do this, but its not fair, I deserve to have my chance, and besides its fun!

I get that these girls were creating their last set of soccer memories, and the powerful drive to "finish the job" Often that drive to "do it anyway" regardless of consequences is what gets our teens into trouble. That emotional surge of excitement and awesomeness completely overrides reason and sanity. And in this climate of  bullying  these girls should have know better, and probably did, but just couldn't give up their own idea of creating memory.

 Lessons in life are hard and painful, but from them come growth. If we rescue our kids from these lessons, even if as parents we do not agree with outcomes, we don't give our kids the opportunity to grow. In this case, there was a rule, it was in a book given to students and parents. If kids and parents CHOOSE not to read the book and talk about it then that's their choice.  But when the kids CHOOSE to participate in an activity and it doesn't have the outcome they expected, there is a consequence. As lawyers tell us....always read the fine print.

Now can we focus on the girls who really need our attention?

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