New hazing policies approved by school board include 'passive participation' element

Those caught will be barred from activities for at least one month

Posted: Thursday, March 05, 2009

Students caught hazing or letting their classmates get away with it in their presence will be barred from all extracurricular school activities for a minimum of 30 days. Students also would be banned from the particular sport or activity in which the incident occurred for an entire season, under a policy the Juneau School Board adopted Tuesday.

At the board's Feb. 17 meeting, board President Mark Choate shared concern about the "passive participation" element turning student bystanders into enforcers and holding students to a Good Samaritan standard over and above what the law demands of the average citizen.

"We're trying to change the culture that allows hazing and bullying to continue," Assistant Superintendent Laury Scandling said in defense of the provision during that same meeting.

On Wednesday, Choate reiterated a concern about distinguishing observation from passive participation, but said ultimately he didn't oppose the new policies when it was time to vote.

"I don't want to spend all our time waiting on the one exception to the rule we can't cover," he said.

The hazing changes were part of a package of policy updates that also revised fundraising rules related to student participation in athletics and other school-sponsored extracurricular activities.

The push for tougher hazing policies follows an incident during a high school wrestling team trip to Petersburg in November. According to parents, some of the younger athletes came back with frost bitten hands and welts on their backsides, the results of older teammates ordering them to hold ice until their skin burned, and paddling.

The school district held a two-week investigation. Some of the victims' parents said the students responsible for the hazing were let off too easy and that they shouldn't have been allowed back on the team after their brief suspensions.

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