Sue Scheff: Bullying, Hazing and Teasing

Bullying, hazing, teasing and more - parents need to start educating themselves and their children about this harmful issue and how serious it is. As I stated in yesterday’s Blog, the tragic loss of young lives is unspeakable - and when you hear that these kids were constantly bullied and teased, there has to be a stop to it. Hazing is just as serious. Many teens/tweens are pulled into this horrible activity in an effort to “fit in” or think they will be with the “cool” group. Think twice - learn more now.


“I think that hazing by nature is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s when it gets humiliating or cruel or overly anxiety-provoking and it becomes a traumatic event, we have to get rid of that.”

– John Lochridge, Ph.D., psychologist

Fifteen-year-old Sean Butkus sees hazing as a pretty normal part of team sports.
“Hazing is a way of initiating a kid and seeing if they’re determined enough’ he says. “Just like, it’s like a test to see if you know they’re gonna be there for you.”

As a freshman, Sean joined his older brother’s soccer team this fall. So he knew what to expect from hearing about his brother’s experience.

“He got his head shaved” says Sean. “And I knew maybe that would happen to me. I actually got a Mohawk.”

Psychologist John Lochridge makes the point that not all of these ‘rites of passage’ are damaging. They were originally meant to bring a group closer together through some sort of hardship, but within certain boundaries.

“I think that hazing by nature is not necessarily a bad thing,” Lochridge says. “It’s when it gets humiliating or cruel or overly anxiety-provoking and it becomes a traumatic event, we have to get rid of that.”

A new survey finds that 45 percent of high school kids have been hazed: one in four was sleep deprived and 8 percent of the kids had to drink so much they either got sick or passed out.
“There’s just not enough supervisors to see what’s happening in every room – what’s happening in the bathroom, the locker room – there’s just so many places where so many things can happen,” Sean says.

Experts say the key is for the adults in charge to be proactive, to be alert, to ask questions and to make boundaries clear at the beginning of the year or the start of the season.
“There needs to be no sexuality involved and no abuse, no nudity, no humiliation – those kinds of things are above and beyond,” says Lochridge.

And coaches in particular can make sure they pick the right kids to be the team leaders.
It helps to have captains who are approachable, who are mature enough to listen to the new kids, Lochridge states.

“You want a relationship somewhere between the kids where the ones who are being hazed can go to the older ones and say, look, this is enough,” he adds. “It’s gone over the line. It’s getting inappropriate. And hopefully, the older ones have the wisdom to respond to that.”
Sean was lucky. His team captains were responsible and his experience was all in good fun.
“I mean, we still laugh about it,” he says. “I liked it.”

Tips for Parents

Hazing was created as a way to develop teamwork and unity among a group of individuals. It was also designed to “prove one’s worth.” While trust, devotion and determination are important attributes to possess, many organizations who participate in hazing take it to the extreme, turning it from a symbol of loyalty into a celebration of humiliation. Experts have developed a list of alternatives to hazing.

Plan events in which the whole group, team or organization attends (such as field trips, retreats, dances, movies and plays).

Participate in team-building activities (visiting a ropes course, playing paint ball, etc.).
Plan a social event with another group.

Develop a peer-mentor program within the group, teaming seasoned members with new members.

Work together on a community service project or plan fundraisers for local charitable organizations.

Hazing may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people. Students and parents may consider hazing a part of tradition, having fun or harmless pranks. But according to D’Arcy Lyness, a child and adolescent psychologist, viewing hazing this way only adds to the problem. It trivializes the actual dangers that exist in the act of hazing. There are steps, however, that parents can take to help prevent hazing, Lyness says.

Be educated about state anti-hazing laws (all but seven states have some sort of law applying to schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions). Some schools – and states – may group hazing and bullying together in policies and laws.
Make sure your child’s school and/or district has clearly defined policies that prohibit hazing, is taking measures to proactively prevent hazing from occurring and is acting immediately with repercussions when hazing does occur.

Ask your parent-teacher association and/or school administrators to invite a local law-enforcement official to speak to parents and/or the student body about hazing and the state’s anti-hazing law.

Work with school personnel and student leaders to create powerful – and safe – experiences to promote positive alternatives to hazing that would foster cohesion in group, club and team membership.

Talk to other parents – especially those of upperclassmen and your child’s sports teammates – about what their children may have seen or experienced. If you know that the problem exists at your child’s school, you’ll be better prepared to discuss it with your child, fellow parents and school officials.

Clich├ęd as it is, have the “if everyone else was jumping off the bridge, would you do it, too?” conversation with your child. Talk about why your child shouldn’t feel pressured to participate in anything, even if “everyone else is doing it” or “it’s always been done this way.”
Talk specifically about hazing and what your child would do in a hypothetical hazing situation. Discuss how the group mentality sometimes can cause people to wait for someone else to do the right thing, stop something dangerous, speak out, etc. Discuss the topic in a way that doesn’t lecture or tell your child what to think or do. Let your child know that often it takes just one person to speak out or take different action to change a situation. Others will follow if someone has the courage to be first to do something different or to be first to refuse to go along with the group.

Explain to your child that physical and mental abuse, no matter how harmless it may seem, isn’t part of becoming a member of the in crowd or a specific group, and that it even may be against the law. Emphasize the importance of telling you and an adult at school whenever another kid or group of kids causes your child or anyone else physical harm.

If your child has experienced hazing, talk to school officials immediately. If physical abuse was involved, talk to your local law-enforcement agency. Though he or she may be unwilling or may feel uneasy about “telling on” peers, get precise details from your child about the incident – who, what, when, where and how.

Above all, maintain open communication with your child. Always ask what’s going at school, what peers are doing, what pressures are present – physically, academically and socially. Encourage your child to come to you in any uncomfortable situation, big or small.

Kids Health
Stop Hazing
National School Safety Center
University of Maine

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