Media Archive

Area schools experience hazing, harrassment problems

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Vol. 164, No. 18, May 01, 2002

By Sarah MacIlroy
Staff Writer

The school of hard knocks may be more than just a figure of speech for some local students whose school experience can include harassment and hazing along with the homework.

Freshman hazing taking place in Greenville was brought to the attention of school officials last week, who decided to form a committee to look into the issue.

Greenville High School Principal Paye Booker said that the hazing reportedly occurring in the area, encompasses both male and female students and has developed into something of a tradition in the region.

"They've done it for incoming freshmen for a couple of years, and the school has definitely come out strong against it," Booker said in an interview Monday. "I want to publicly emphasize that the school does not, and will not, condone it. With that being said, it still finds a way to take place."

Although the school does have written policy prohibiting hazing, the activities traditionally take place at the Junction wharf, off school property and beyond the school's jurisdiction.

"The kids are forced to eat certain things, and the freshman feel they have to do so or they'll be picked on," she explained, "As far as the information out there,some things are misinformation. People haven't exactly gotten all the facts."

Booker said that the school has tried to introduce school-sanctioned alternatives, but without success."The problem is that it (the hazing) has become dangerous," she explained. "And it's wrong to affect how kids feel about themselves."

However, the issue of some students making life difficult for other students isn't isolated to Greenville.

At a meeting in March, Penquis Valley High School Principal John Robinson told SAD 41 board members that staff had noticed an increased amount of "inappropriate behavior" by junior high students.

Robinson reported that the students were berating each other frequently and using an increased amount of inappropriate language. In response to these issues, the school organized an open forum for parents of sixth - seventh - and eighth - graders to discuss the problem and find solutions.

More recently, two Dexter Regional High School students took what they see as a harassment problem in the community and the school to Dexter Town Council members at their April meeting.

"The council can't take any action," said Town Manager Bob Simpson,"I think we can lend a supportive ear and encourage, and if there's a problem in the community, get the police involved, but there's not much we can do."

High School Principal Bruce Bailey said that the school keeps a written record of reported problems and takes what action they can to correct them.

"If a kid comes to this office and complains to me, we will not turn our backs," Bailey said. "That's what we're here for¸to meet needs."

Greenville's Brooker agrees her school has a role in solving student problems, but said she doesn't feel that more school programs will necessarily eliminate behavior issues.

"We've tried to make sure the kids know how the school feels," she said. "(But) I feel part of this whole issue is the parents."

Booker explained that the school needs parents to work with their children to curtail the practice. She said it might take a parent meeting to find a solution.

"If parents don't want their children to participate, parents need to stop it," she said. "For people to sit there and say that the school and police should deal with this won't ,wprk. If parents,don't step in, that sends the wrong message."

Students also have a role, she said.They need to realize the impact their actions have on others.

"I think at this point, kids need to understand how wrong it is," she said said. "(It should not be) a way of life in school. Overall, my feeling is that kids don't intend to hurt, but it does happen."

Womancare's Teen Issues Coordinator Angie Alfonso said some problems that may start out
with teasing and bullying, eventually develop into more serious problems like harassment and domestic violence.

"We want to empower these students to stand up to this, and we also want to encourage others not to be silent about it, but to stand against it and be positive role models," Alfonso explained.

Through community awareness and open discussion, she believes the problems can be dealt with.

"We need to recognize that we're all individuals of varying strengths and qualities, and we need to celebrate that," she said.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.