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Illicit CP - September 2003

Corpun file 11946

Calgary Herald, Alberta, 10 September 2003

Police probe hazing attacks

Students paddled with boards

By Deborah Tetley
Calgary Herald

CREDIT: Ted Jacob, Calgary Herald

Students were hit with these boards in a hazing.

Calgary police and school officials are investigating several high school hazing rituals occurring during the first week of class -- including reports of teens swarming younger students, pinning them down and "paddling" them repeatedly with boards, sticks and cricket bats.

Other incidents of "froshing," or Grade 10 initiation, under investigation include threats, egg tossing, fights with boxing gloves and spraying bleach-filled water pistols or balloons at students -- some of these leading to dozens of school suspensions and community service sanctions.

The instances, police say, typically involve Grade 11 and 12 students targeting Grade 10s and are happening in close to a quarter of Calgary high schools.

"This is beyond hazing and fun stuff," District 7 community liaison officer Const. Roy Moe told the Herald. "These acts, like getting whacked with a two-by-four, are criminal."

In one instance last week, a Grade 10 student was so traumatized by a hazing he transferred schools, said Sgt. Tim Loucks, of the police school resource unit.

"We asked him to go through the yearbook and identify the suspect for us and he refused. He said he just wanted to get out of the school, that was his solution."

While police investigate and charges are pending, dozens of students have been suspended in the public and Catholic systems -- and several have been ordered to carry out community service work.

"The kids behave like a pack of lions looking for the weak one in the herd," Loucks said. "It's planned and deliberate and they look for easy targets. But one of these times, they are going to pick on the wrong person, one thing will lead to another and someone is going to get seriously, seriously hurt."

One mother told the Herald her son has hardly been able sit down since Thursday, when he and another 15-year-old were beaten with pieces of lumber and plywood after school by a group of about five males, while dozens of students looked on -- laughing and cheering.

The woman and her son asked that they not be identified for fear of reprisal.

The boy said he and his friend were walking past an alley across from Bowness High School, at 4627 77th St. N.W., when a car pulled up and five males jumped out. The boys were attacked by the board-wielding males, repeatedly struck below their waists and above their knees.

"Once, they missed my butt and hit my hand," said the teen. "When I screamed that they broke my finger, everyone scattered."

The teen said about 30 students stood around and watched, while the assailants -- disguised under sunglasses and hats -- attacked.

"Everyone just laughed and told them what to do, where to hit us," he said. "It was horrible."

The mother said she knows the incident is a hazing because the boys were asked what grade they are in. Scared, one of the boys lied and said that he was in Grade 11 and just moved to the city. When the other said he didn't have his identification on him, one of the thugs patted him down to see if he was carrying ID.

"Now the kids run home like petrified chickens every day since," she said. "This is criminal, this mob mentality.

"I'm not saying I condone it, but if they hit them once, it would be a prank. But hunting these kids down and standing guard while others repeatedly beat them, that's a crime."

She and other parents have contacted the school's principal and arranged a meeting, in addition to calling police.

Bowness's principal, Philip Tuck, said seven students involved in three "paddlings" have been suspended and one -- who did the smacking with the two-by-fours -- has been expelled.

"Students' safety is of utmost importance to us and we will do anything to ensure that," Tuck said. "We have zero tolerance for froshing, at any level. It doesn't matter if it's egging, threats or paddling, it's not acceptable. We punish those responsible."

Graham White, spokesman for the Calgary Catholic District, said several Grade 12 students were suspended from Bishop Grandin High School, at 111 Haddon Rd. S.W., last week for egging Grade 10 students. They were also made to do community service.

He said while the problem isn't rampant, it is a concern the administration addresses with students at the beginning of the school year and during assemblies, as does the public system.

"The first year for Grade 10s is hard enough," White said. "They don't need this abuse by the people who are supposed to be acting as their mentors."

Police said peer pressure often prevents students from reporting incidents.

"They would rather be a victim and remain silent than be looked on as a rat," Loucks said. "And that is really hard for the parents to comprehend, that level of peer pressure. If these students stand in court and point the finger, they then have to walk the halls and have the finger pointed at them."

Officials at both school boards said the punishment meted out is at the discretion of each school's principal.

Police and school officials urge parents and students to report incidents.

"I know these kids are scared, but once the adults are involved, the retaliation doesn't happen," Loucks said. "Our group is bigger than their group and when the adults are involved, the cloak of secrecy is off."

Bishop Grandin students said hazings are "long-standing traditions" and taper off after the first month of school.

"It usually happens to the less popular kids, or people who don't have older brothers or sisters," said 15-year-old Jennyffer Miron. "They get paddled, or squirted with bleach in squirt guns, or egged, or beat up."

Miron and her friends said the best way for students to avoid getting hassled is "to just let it happen because they are going to get it eventually."

Bishop Grandin Grade 12 student Anthony Seatter said he's seen a small percentage of younger students so petrified of being hazed without warning, they've asked for the initiation.

"They will come up and ask for it, just to get it over with," said Seatter, who does not participate in the rituals. "It's sick and dangerous, stupid and without cause."

 Copyright 2003 Calgary Herald

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