Upper St. Clair district officials aim to quash hazing
Some parents question whether Upper St. Clair School District is doing enough to prevent seniors from hazing freshmen, although school officials and police say they're addressing the problem.
Staff members reaffirmed anti-bullying and anti-hazing messages to students because of an online video showing teens being paddled, Superintendent Patrick O'Toole told the school board on Monday. He said parents must pay attention to what kids are doing, too.
“We were all very disheartened, displeased and disappointed in the actions of our students during the summer. Obviously, some students didn't get the message,” O'Toole said.
About a dozen parents of freshmen, middle school students and alumni attended the meeting.
“What happened to our boys should not be perceived as ‘boys will be boys.' It was an assault,” said Billie Williams, a parent.
Parents said seniors told younger boys to meet at a park after dark. If they refused, they were warned they would endure worse beatings later. Someone recorded a senior paddling the boys' exposed buttocks. Some victims were given rides home, parents said.
Some of the mothers left the meeting saying they want more specific assurance that such hazing — an apparent tradition — will stop.
“We are only eight short months from this process beginning in our school district again,” Williams said.
Police charged three students with summary harassment and the school district disciplined them. Senior Judge Eugene Zielmanski dismissed the charges against the 17-year-olds this month. Their names were not released because they are underage, and the district would not comment on disciplinary matters.
Upper St. Clair police Chief Doug Burkholder said six or seven younger students, likely incoming freshmen, were identified as victims from the video and witness accounts. “We were led to believe there were more (victims), but no one else has come forward,” he said.
Rumors of hazing in years past led officers to patrol bus stops where incoming freshmen were to be dropped off, Burkholder said. This is the first year that police charged any students.
School board President Barbara Bolas said it's up to administrators to decide how to deliver warnings against hazing.
“I have every confidence the administration will implement the proper programs to drive home the message,” she said.
O'Toole said high school administrators met with all classes at the start of the school year to reiterate the policy banning bullying and hazing.
Hank Nuwer, a journalism professor at Franklin College near Indianapolis and author of several books on hazing, said it's not uncommon for hazing to occur even without links to sports teams or clubs. Most victims are reluctant to report what happens, he said.
“I've seen that over and over again,” Nuwer said, “either because the students … want to be part of a tradition, or more likely, because the peer pressure would be embarrassing.”
To quash hazing, Nuwer recommends districts use suspensions, expulsions, and warnings that officials will prosecute any hazing that reaches a criminal level.
Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5625 or email@example.com.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.