Time For A Refresher Course
Barely a week since the school year started and already we hear of hazing incidents in Guelph and Burlington. And there have been more reported at schools across Canada.
Hazing is what a member of our judicial system told me is any situation or action, with or without the consent of participants, whether it’s intentional or not, that endangers the physical or mental or safety of a student.
And it happens on the sports field, the gym, pool, rink and even on the slopes.
There is no humour reading stories about a teenage athlete forced to run naked with a cracker in his buttocks, or one getting hands dipped in paint or heads stuck in toilets or shoplifting while wearing a school football uniform or even running around with a bed sheet as underwear. Yes, all are true.
Yet many young people still don’t get it. They see these kind of incidents, and there are many more examples worse than those you just read, as a joke. Hazing is no joke. It's brutal, abusive and repugnant. Police can proceed with criminal charges and the Safe School Act spells out punishment from suspension to expulsion.
I remember writing several stories of hazing incidents involving high school sports teams in Toronto many years ago and I was told by a coach that there are two cases of hazing: harmless and harmful. Sorry, I don’t buy that at all. Taping an unclothed player to a goalpost and smashing eggs at him is not harmless.
It's difficult to pinpoint an exact number of injuries related to hazing rituals associated with sports in Canadian schools The kind of nonsense that happens is usually secretive. Reports in the U.S. have shown that many students each year are injured, and some even killed, as a result of hazing.
There are many websites, StopHazing.org is one, that has some interesting information. The National Federation of State High School Associations nfhs.org has information about hazing as does the Manitoba High School Athletic Association mhsaa.mb.ca. Sadly, I am told, there is no policy outlined by the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations.
Hazing is a form of bullying and we have read a great deal about that over the years. While some students need to think about the consequences of getting involved in a hazing incident, adults are also a problem by turning their heads instead of doing the right thing and putting an end to this nonsense.
When sports schedules are posted or handed out to student athletes, it might be a wise idea to also provide information about how young people get attention for the right reasons.