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Illicit CP - July 1999

Corpun file 4014


Star Tribune, Minneapolis, 2 July 1999

Hazing being investigated at Burnsville schools

By Norman Draper
Staff Writer

Burnsville police and Burnsville School District officials are investigating an end-of-school hazing incident last month that might have involved more than 150 Burnsville High School and junior high students.

The incident, which apparently happened on the last day of school, involved 11th-graders paddling 9th-graders as an initiation into high school come September.

Burnsville police and Burnsville School District officials are investigating an end-of-school hazing incident last month that might have involved more than 150 Burnsville High School and junior high students.

According to police and officials from the school district, which comprises Eagan and Savage, the hazing apparently involved 11th-grade students selecting popular ninth-graders from the district junior high schools, telling them to show up at a specific location, then whacking them on the buttocks with paddles as a sort of initiation into their first year of high school in September.

"We've heard that it's been going on for up to three years, and that there are as many as 15 victims," said Burnsville Police Chief David Farrington. "We heard that it was a large gathering of kids on the last day of school, up to about 100-150 kids in attendance witnessing the event ..."

Farrington said there were no reports of serious injuries, but that "we've heard there were bruises or marks on some people."

He said the hazing incident occurred June 10, the last day of school, on a residential cul-de-sac. Although police were called by nearby residents who witnessed the hazing, all the students were gone when the police arrived, he said.

District and Burnsville High School officials said the hazing goes far beyond acceptable initiation rites.

"If something is happening that is of such a nature that kids are fearful or intimidated by it, that alone makes it a serious matter we have to attend to," said Superintendent Benjamin Kanninen, who said the parent of a victim told him about it the week after it happened.

Kanninen and Farrington met with about 20 district parents Tuesday night at the city Police Department but came away with few specifics. For one thing, parents of children who were hazed don't want them identified for fear they will be subjected to reprisals. Plus, many of the students apparently viewed the incident as a rite of passage and don't want to talk about it.

"It sounds like whatever happened is a first-time event or something that might have escalated dramatically from last year," said Kanninen, who has been superintendent for about two years.

Incident isn't rare

Certainly, hazing isn't restricted to the Burnsville district. Four years ago, 16-year-old Nikki Cosentino recounted a "sophomore kidnap" in which 80 to 100 drunken Roseville High School seniors overpowered a group of underclassmen, then urinated on them, broke bottles over their heads, poured vinegar in their eyes and egged their faces.

That case prompted state legislation authored by Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, that requires schools to inform students that hazing is unacceptable.

Other metro-area principals say initiation rites aren't rare, but they note that principals have to make sure a harmless rite doesn't turn into hazing.

"Unless a school district takes active steps to reduce it or prevent it, it's going to occur," said Richard Melvin, principal of Osseo High School. "It seems to be a behavior that is characteristic of adolescence ... Every school I've ever been in, you have to deal with the issue."

Burnsville district parents and school board members said they were in the dark about such incidents until a few weeks ago.

"Up until this year, I had never heard about it," said Connie Yandle, president of the parent-teacher organization at Metcalf Junior High in Burnsville. "But when I asked my kids about it this year, they said, 'Yes, it was going on.' Up until this year, I think they felt it was pretty innocent ... But it's become more serious."

Yandle said she knew of one victim who was downplaying the incident to his parents. "These are popular kids that are being attacked, and they want to maintain their popularity, and they want to keep silent about it."

Outgoing senior class officer Katie Boruff said the initiation rite has "gone on for a long time."

"I think it's just recently that it's become a big problem," she said. "The last four years, it's gone on the same way. I'm not a fan of hazing. People who had it done to them think it's a big power trip and that they can do it to the ninth-graders. It's kind of ridiculous, but I don't think it's a big life-threatening problem."

Boruff said the idea for the paddling might have come from the 1993 movie "Dazed and Confused," in which the protagonists whacked eighth-graders with paddles at the end of the school year.

Copyright 1999 Star Tribune.

blob Follow-up: 18 August 1999 - Nearly 100 High Schoolers Face Suspension in Freshmen Hazing Incident

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