Taking Control

December 22, 2003

What can schools and parents do to stop hazing? An expert in the
field, Dr. Norman Pollard, who is the director of counseling at
Alfred (N.Y.) University, has several suggestions.

FOR SCHOOLS

--Have an antihazing policy. "It's surprising how often I've
talked to students who say no one ever told them hazing was
wrong," says Pollard, who was part of the research team for
Alfred's pioneering hazing studies. "Schools need to have a
policy in place that is explained to students and enforced."

--Develop adult-sponsored initiations. "Kids need some sort of
rite of passage, but they don't know how to do it. Parents,
teachers, alumni and coaches can help develop team-building
activities like rope courses or adventure camping. It can be
challenging, but it needs to have adults involved."

--Establish reporting mechanisms. "Students need a way to safely
report incidents of hazing to the school guidance counselor,"
Pollard says. Some school districts, he adds, subscribe to
anonymous websites such as Reportit.com.

FOR PARENTS

--Realize you can make an impact. "I get calls all the time from
parents who feel they're just pushed aside when they try to file
a charge or ask for an investigation," says Pollard. "They need
to have a mechanism through the school board or PTA."

--Stay involved. "When kids are in Little League or Pop Warner
between the ages of five and 12, the parents are involved,
coaching, selling concessions, carpooling," says Pollard. "Then
the kid turns 13, and a lot of times the parents leave things to
the coaches and the school. Parents need to be more involved
between ages 13 and 17."

Though administrators in the Bellmore-Merrick school district had
some antihazing measures in place at Mepham High, they are now
undertaking several initiatives. They have brought in Athletes
Helping Athletes, a program on civility run by former Syracuse
quarterback Don McPherson; are instituting a freshman seminar and
an antihazing unit in phys-ed classes; and have started a
graduate-level class in conjunction with Adelphi University, open
to all teachers, on responsible behavior for coaches and
athletes.

Likewise, Bellmore-Merrick school officials hope the Mepham case
can serve as a cautionary tale to their counterparts across the
country. As Saul Lerner, the district's athletic director, points
out, "If someone reads this article, or if a kid now comes
forward who was hazed, then something good comes out of something
that was incredibly horrific."

--G.W.

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