Plano incidents put spotlight on troubling issue of hazing
By Denise Crosby email@example.com August 29, 2013 5:44PM
Plano High School's football field | Steve Lord~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2013 6:36AM
Imagine the jokes flying around the conference right now, especially at tonight’s opening game of the Plano Reapers football season.
Imagine the hard questions coaches and school administrators will be answering over the alleged hazing incidents that led to the arrest this week of five student athletes for criminal sexual assault.
Imagine the mortification of their parents when cops came knocking at their doors.
Then imagine what the victims’ parents are going through, and what the alleged victims themselves had — and will continue — to endure.
I’m glad that’s all I have to do is imagine … because the reality is so ugly.
Officials are saying the assaults, which involved three victims in two sports — football last August, basketball in February — is not a sex crime, but rather a form of bullying taken to the extreme.
How it got to that extreme is beyond my comprehension.
No form of dominating or humiliating another human should ever be condoned, including “all-in-fun” hazing that’s often been part of team traditions for generations. But antics that lead to digital penetration, as is alleged in Plano, takes the unacceptable to a whole new level of disbelief … and disgust.
It doesn’t happen in isolation, either. Just this week, a fifth Maine West High School student filed a lawsuit against the school district, principal and coaches over a similar hazing incident at the Des Plaines school last year.
The lawyer of this latest Maine West soccer victim said it was shame, guilt and fear that kept his client from coming forward earlier. And no doubt that’s the reason the Kendall County State’s Attorney’s Office is keeping the Plano investigation open.
What a mess.
And what a sad commentary that schools must now specifically address hazing in their ongoing bullying-prevention initiatives My son, a middle school teacher with Plainfield School District, said an attorney spoke to staff before school began this year specifically about hazing, in response to cases that have been reported in other districts.
Identifying potential hazing and how to prevent it was also part of the training at a summer retreat for West Aurora coaches, according to Athletic Director Jason Buckley.
“We identified exactly what the law constitutes as hazing, what coaches should look for and how to prevent it,” he wrote in an email response. “At that time we emphasized the importance of proper supervision, especially in locker rooms, to ensure that any type of hazing, bullying or harassing behavior does not occur.”
And for extra emphasis, he added, the newly-formed Blackhawk Leadership Team for student athletes will include sessions on bullying, harassment and hazing.
Leigh Jaffke, athletic director at Kaneland, said all her coaches have been clearly informed this “type of behavior is not tolerated” and that they need to supervise their students at all times. Administrators, she added, are working closely with the bullying task force to make clear that hazing is also a form of bullying.
While East Aurora Athletic Director Dennis Renner said hazing was not specifically addressed with coaches in the district’s anti-bullying programs, “it’s now on our radar,” he said, and will likely be included.
Over at Plano, now in damage-control, Superintendent Hector Garcia sent an email message to parents Thursday morning emphasizing all the district did after the hazing incident was witnessed by a teacher in February, as well as the school’s continued efforts working with law enforcement authorities. That’s the good news.
The bad news? State’s Attorney Eric Weis said there’s “enough information to indicate there were more than three victims.”
I imagine it’s going to be a long year, don’t you?