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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 11/17/2011

Hazing: 6 common myths

At Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, hazing during homecoming week is quite the tradition. Older students pelt freshmen with paint and, sometimes, assault them.

In this Post story, my colleague Michael Alison Chandler details how hazing continues to thrive at many schools (including the event informally known as “freshmen beat-down day”) and she quotes school administrators saying how hard it is to stamp out.

Hard it might be, but what’s really hard is to believe that some of this can’t be stopped quickly.

BCC Principal Karen Lockard explained to Chandler that she has tried banning spray paint at the school, and she gathered students in an assembly to listen to a lecture about the dangers of bullying. She has urged teachers to do the same in classrooms. How about cancelling homecoming and all of the activities connected to it — including the football game?

Bill Curran, student activities and athletic director in Fairfax County public schools, is quoted as saying that efforts to educate students about hazing have improved, but “All that said, these are 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds, and we are dependent on their behavior.”

We are dependent on the behavior of 15 year olds? Really? I thought they were dependent on adults setting examples and teaching them what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Hazing is not just horsing around, it is not funny, it is not acceptable. Not at high schools, not on college campuses.

Here are some myths and facts about hazing, reproduced with permission from the website http://www.stophazing.org/. There’s a lot more information at that site too.

“Hazing,” the website says, “refers to any activity expected of someone joining a group (or to maintain full status in a group) that humiliates, degrades or risks emotional and/or physical harm, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”

Myth #1: Hazing is a problem for fraternities and sororities primarily.

Fact: Hazing is a societal problem. Hazing incidents have been frequently documented in the military, athletic teams, marching bands, religious cults, professional schools and other types of clubs and/or, organizations. Reports of hazing activities in high schools are on the rise.

Myth #2: Hazing is no more than foolish pranks that sometimes go awry.

Fact: Hazing is an act of power and control over others --- it is victimization. Hazing is pre-meditated and NOT accidental. Hazing is abusive, degrading and often life-threatening.

Myth #3: As long as there’s no malicious intent, a little hazing should be O.K.

Fact: Even if there’s no malicious “intent” safety may still be a factor in traditional hazing activities that are considered to be “all in good fun.” For example, serious accidents have occurred during scavenger hunts and kidnapping trips. Besides, what purpose do such activities serve in promoting the growth and development of group team members?

Myth #4: Hazing is an effective way to teach respect and develop discipline.

Fact: First of all, respect must be EARNED--not taught. Victims of hazing rarely report having respect for those who have hazed them. Just like other forms of victimization, hazing breeds mistrust, apathy and alienation.

Myth #5: If someone agrees to participate in an activity, it can’t be considered hazing.

Fact: In states that have laws against hazing consent of the victim can’t be used as a defense in a civil suit. This is because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action it may not be true consent when considering the peer pressure and desire to belong to the group.

Myth #6: It’s difficult to determine whether or not a certain activity is hazing — it’s such a gray area sometimes.

Fact: It’s not difficult to decide if an activity is hazing if you use common sense and ask yourself the following questions:

Make the following inquiries of each activity to determine whether or not it is hazing.

1) Is alcohol involved?

2) Will active/current members of the group refuse to participate with the new

members and do exactly what they’re being asked to do?

3) Does the activity risk emotional or physical abuse?

4) Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?

5) Do you have any reservation describing the activity to your parents, to a professor or University official?

6) Would you object to the activity being photographed for the school newspaper or filmed by the local TV news crew?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the activity is probably hazing.

Adapted from Death By Hazing Sigma Alpha Epsilon. 1988.

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By  |  06:00 AM ET, 11/17/2011

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