The principal calls it an “ugly tradition" at Madison high school.
For years, school leaders say hazing and homecoming have gone hand in hand. But this year, officials tried to put a stop to the activities organized by students to humiliate others.
After school administrators at Madison Central brought their concerns about hazing traditions to the school board, the district developed, and then adopted an anti-hazing policy last February. It's now part of the district's student handbook. But this month, the policy was put to the test during homecoming when the activities usually hit their highpoint for the year.
School officials won't say exactly what happened during homecoming at Madison high school earlier this month. But the events didn't happen "without incident." And School Board President Kelly Johnson says the district has its hands full as it tries to reign in a tradition that's been teasing and tormenting students for years.
“There were some out-of-control things that the community just came to accept over the years,” Johnson said.
Johnson says, many times, the hazing activities are referred to as initiations.
“Initiations really are hazings, whether you like to call it that or not, that's what the reality is, they really are,” Johnson said.
Whether it’s an unspoken requirement to join a sports team or a right of passage into high school, Johnson says the tradition of physical and mental abuse at Madison needs to stop.
“I think there's a lot of these hazings that get out of hand where people get physically and emotionally damaged as a result of the hazing, initiation, that didn't start out with anyone thinking it would get out of hand. And they do,” he said.
So the district is trying to be proactive by enforcing a new anti-hazing policy before someone gets seriously injured.
“What's important about this is we're still at the active stage. We're not saying someone got hurt terribly and as a result of that we need to change something now,” Johnson said.
Johnson says he hopes the policy will make Madison a safer place to live.
“This policy on initiations, or hazing if you would isn't just about the school, its about the community,” Johnson said.
This policy bans all types of hazing involving students both on and off school property and at all times—not just during school hours. But the district isn't only taking a tradition away. Johnson says there are committees working to develop new activities that will still make homecoming a fun, but safe event.
To read Madison Central’s student handbook, including the section about hazing, click here.
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