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Illicit CP - November 2006

Corpun file 18623

Winnipeg Free Press, Manitoba, 14 November 2006

Hazing rite earns suspensions

4 College Beliveau students punished for paddling

By Nick Martin

FOUR high school students have been suspended for at least six weeks after they paddled Grade 9 students on the buttocks in a hazing ritual.

One suspended student says a total of 15 boys from Grades 11 and 12 at College Beliveau ordered seven Grade 9 boys to a Windsor Park field on Sept. 6, where four of them hit the younger students with a skateboard and a hockey goalie's stick.

Louis Riel School Division superintendent Terry Borys has suspended those four boys, and trustees will decide Nov. 21 if any will be expelled.

Kids call it hazing, and some claim it's a widespread tradition for the start of school and a rite of passage. But education officials call it assault and humiliation, and they treat the hazers severely.

"I do not tolerate hazing. I do not believe people can hurt other people," said Borys, who did not identify the school involved. "It is not acceptable in 2006 to hurt someone's feelings or body.

"There is often this code of silence. They're afraid to go to teachers. This must be stopped," said Borys, who also suspended students at Dakota Collegiate in 2005 for hazing younger kids.

Christopher Feener, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at College Beliveau, said Monday that he was surprised he was suspended for something he says happens every year at College Beliveau.

It happened to him in 2004 in Grade 9, and it happened to his sister six years ago, Christopher and his father, Gordon Feener, said. But nothing happened then because victims do not come forward for fear of retribution.

When Christopher was in Grade 9, older students, including some he knew, ordered him into a car.

"I just got put up against the fence and paddled, five or six guys in Grade 12. I didn't resist. The bruises lasted for about a week."

Said his father: "He got paddled so bad, he had welts on his butt. He couldn't sit for a week, but that was Freshie Week."

This year, Christopher was among 15 older students who rounded up seven Grade 9 students and ordered them to follow the older guys' cars to a nearby park.

Gordon Feener said the Grade 9 students did what they were told because the older kids told them: "If you don't follow us, you'll get it worse."

Christopher said he and three other boys paddled while the rest watched. Some other senior students hazed other groups of kids, but only his group got caught, Christopher said.

"Basically, we told them to go and stand up against the fence. There was a hockey stick, a goalie stick, and a skateboard with no wheels on it," said Christopher, who went easy on the kid he paddled, whom he knew. "I'm sure some of the other kids hit decently hard."

Gordon Feener said girls get hit with eggs, have lipstick smeared across their faces and have ketchup and mustard rubbed in their hair.

Kids don't report it, said Feener: "There's a fear there. The older students, if you fink on them, if you're a rat, they'll come after you."

Christopher said he got called into principal Alain Nault's office Oct. 23 and learned he was suspended. A neighbour had called the police, who investigated and went to the school.

Gordon Feener said the paddlers maybe deserved a one-week suspension, but not six weeks.

The Feener family blames College Beliveau: If Christopher had known the consequences, he would not have paddled anyone, they said.

The school sent parents a two-sided letter about various school activities on Aug. 21. On the back was a reference to hazing and a minimum five-day suspension and possible police involvement.

"Who thinks of turning a letter over to see if there is writing on the back?" Gordon Feener asked.

Christopher's mother, Pauline Feener, said that when Nault asked Christopher if he felt remorse, her son indicated that "if he had known the consequences (for himself, not his victim), he would never have done something like this."

Christopher said he'll be back in class Dec. 4, but Borys cautioned that "it's not been decided when they can go back to school. The board can choose to expel a student from Louis Riel School Division."

Christopher said his grades "are not the greatest," and it's hurting his year to miss six weeks of school. He can't learn online or with materials sent home, his father said.

Christopher said he won't haze when he's in Grade 12 next fall. "If this (suspension) happened again, I couldn't catch up, and then I'm screwed" for graduation.

Pauline Feener was unhappy that College Beliveau has not allowed the Feeners to "confront" the victims and find out how badly they were paddled.

"He wasn't out there to hurt him. Maybe it frightened the kid, I don't know. It's just something they do, year after year," she said.

How school divisions handle hazing:

* Steinbach Regional Secondary School suspended eight Grade 12 students for a week in the fall of 2005 for beating Grade 10 boys with paddles on the first day of school.

"These guys did a stupid thing," Hanover School Division superintendent John Peters said. They had never been in trouble before, Peters said, and a longer suspension would have jeopardized their education.

* In 2004, Margaret Barbour Collegiate in The Pas ended years of ritualized beatings of first-year students when authorities called in police and parents to beef up security.

Four students were caught in the act of a hazing assault and were suspended for a full semester. Parents in The Pas have said that students were threatened with years of high school misery if they reported their beatings.

* The last substantiated cases of hazing in Winnipeg had been in 1998, when Garden City Collegiate suspended five students, West Kildonan Collegiate four students, and Shaftesbury High School one student -- all for paddling younger students outside school property.

2006 Winnipeg Free Press. All Rights Reserved.

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