School board acts to prevent hazing

Even consensual initiation rights banned

By:Jeff Mikalaitis
   FLORENCE – The Florence Board of Education this week amended its school hazing policy to prohibit even consensual initiation rites, said Interim Superintendent Gerard Steffe.
   "It’s not because we’ve had a problem with hazing," he said. "It’s for the good, the well being and the safety of the kids."
   The resolution, adopted unanimously, states hazing activities of any type are inconsistent with the educational process. It prohibits such practices at any time on school premises and at school-sponsored events.
   The resolution defines hazing as any act, or the coercion of another to perform any act, of initiation into any class, team, or organization that causes or creates a substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm.
   The amendment to the 1990 hazing policy prohibits hazing even if it is consensual. If a child wishes to be a part of a certain group and willingly takes part in a hazing ritual, the hazing policy still would be enforced.
   If students are seen engaged in or planning hazing activities, staff members are obligated to confront the students and direct them to stop, Mr. Steffe said.
   Staff members must report all hazing incidents to the principal and the superintendent.
   If a staff member fails to report a hazing incident, he or she may be disciplined.
   Mr. Steffe said the main idea behind the hazing policy is prevention. If students know about the policy and its consequences, they may think twice about taking part in hazing activities.
   Disciplinary action will be taken against any pupil who fails to observe the district’s hazing policy.
   Mr. Steffe said he would prefer the punishment meted out to those who may take part in hazing activities be educational rather than punitive.
   "It would educate them about the foolishness and the danger of what they have done," he said.
   However, he said, if the incident is serious, a harsher punishment could be issued.
   The policy complies with Title Seven of the federal Civil Rights Act and Title Nine of the federal Education Act. All school districts are supposed to have a similar policy, he said.
   The new hazing policy will be in effect this school year, said Mr. Steffe.