A verbal battle ensued on Facebook Tuesday shortly after we shared our article “Parents raw over kids’ paddling.”
“Outrageous!” one Facebook user wrote.
“These are felony actions ... and they need to be held accountable as such,” another said.
“If it were my child I would absolutely press charges,” said yet another.
And then there were those defending the actions of these youth.
“Not sure about everyone else but I don’t want my kid to turn out a scared little ***** who lives their entire life in fear because their parents were overprotective,” one mother wrote.
“This has been going on for yeeeaaars,” another Facebook user wrote. “It happened to me several times when I was a freshmen. It is just basic freshmen hazing — nothing serious enough to file a lawsuit or get the police involved. It is a one-time occurrence and it is considered a ‘right of passage.’ I’m not condoning it but rather merely writing to give confirmation that your kids will survive.”
The paddling, the embarrassment and shaming, has been going on for years, decades even.
That doesn’t make it right, and calling it a “tradition” doesn’t excuse coaches, fellow athletes, students or even authority figures who ignore the problem. These groups need to be proactive about stopping the cycle that will otherwise continue.
We’re not saying the aforementioned folks are to blame. In most cases, we’d be willing to wager they had no idea the beatings were so fierce and the bruising so deep they’d make a chronic abuser blush. We’d bet most witnesses to the freshman “initiation” were scared into silence.
No, few freshman are talking to adults it seems.
Fear is a powerful tool.
But as each graduating class seeks to “better” the one that came before, the hazing becomes more intense and the embarrassment even more unbelievable.
These seniors, some already adults, have entered territory reserved for the criminal. One group of seniors could have killed a diabetic student because of the “hazing” they put him through — by leaving him naked on a bathroom floor while they stole and hid his clothes and backpack, which contained his insulin.
Frankly, they were lucky. Real lucky.
Their penance? Five days of suspension.
It’s situations like these — which leave students in fear and desperation — that cause dire consequences. Situations like these created Columbine, created Dylan Klebold, created Virginia Tech. If you think it can’t happen here, you’re wrong. It already has. In 1997, a Bethel High School student killed two people and wounded two others, partially because his classmates bullied him.
Here in Juneau, one freshman told us he carries a knife because he’s afraid of what’s to come. What if he’s not the only one? What if one desperate freshman picks a firearm instead?
This week’s article is making waves. We hope its wake brings justice to those who have been harmed by the vicious bullying. At the very least, we hope this is the last freshman class to face such violence.
Don’t expect an easy fix.
After our article, Twitter user @AshtinKenney18 wrote, “The paddling will continue, remember that. #tradition #letithappen” and “To all the parents of in coming freshman: it’s called hazing, look it up.”
We urge students to come forward and to be part of a solution.
Who cares if the hazing leader is a star athlete? Who cares if they are the prettiest, most popular girl?
In a few short years, no one will care who they were — only what they did, good or bad.
To parents: Talk to your student and if you know of bullying and hazing actively happening, tell the schools, the authorities, because these are kids — they need the support of their guardians to help make it stop.
Bruises will fade. Memories of extreme bullying — of assault — don’t fade as quickly; for some the nightmares and fear will persist even after the graduation caps are thrown.
It’s time to make these “traditions” myths.
• Empire editorials are written by the Juneau Empire’s editorial board. Members include Publisher Rustan Burton, firstname.lastname@example.org; Director of Audience Abby Lowell, email@example.com; Managing Editor Charles L. Westmoreland, firstname.lastname@example.org; and Asst. Editor James Brooks, email@example.com.