- Two high schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, are dealing with allegations of sexual-related hazing incidents involving members of the football team, according to multiple reports.
- At Damascus High School, a police report says the suspects — who are members of the junior varsity football team — allegedly turned off the lights in the locker room and sexually assaulted four players in a hazing ritual that involved a broomstick, The Baltimore Sun reported. Five players have been charged with rape, according to CBS Sports.
- On Monday, reports of a second hazing incident at Seneca Valley High School surfaced. The Washington Post reported that the allegations involved unwanted sexual touching among football players, and disciplinary measures have been taken.
Hazing is typically associated with activities in higher education such as Greek life, but it also happens — a lot — at the high school level. According to organization Inside Hazing, 91% of high school students are involved in at least one group, and of these students, half say they were subjected to hazing activities. All but six states have anti-hazing laws, and efforts nationwide are working to combat these incidents in schools. But these initiation rituals or activities, which are sometimes seen as harmless or necessary to strengthen a team's or group's closeness, can be dangerous, damaging and potentially life-threatening.
At the high school level, hazing often occurs among players on sports teams. In many cases, captains or older players force newer, younger students to partake in these rituals to prove themselves worthy of being part of a group or to boost camaraderie among the players. But when these secrets come to light, it's often not just students who get blamed — the coaches, who either turned a blind eye or were found to be negligent, also face severe disciplinary action in the aftermath.
While hazing and bullying are different, they can produce similar effects on those who are targeted, and schools can address both by taking more active roles in student groups' proceedings. Coaches need to set clear rules, expectations and punishments from the start of the season, and as time goes on, they shouldn't let up and shoud condem negative behavior. They can also set up opportunities for positive team bonding activities, welcome programs and mentors to help students transition into the group.
Meanwhile, during the school day, teachers and other leaders can play a role in addressing and preventing hazing. Instituting a clear anti-hazing policy and communicating it to teachers and students will ensure no one is in the dark about what's allowed and what's not.
Stressing social-emotional learning, as well as creating a positive school culture, can also be instrumental in promoting students' well-being inside and outside the classroom and preventing these types of incidents. Schools have a duty to take a strong role in addressing hazing, and by doing so effectively, their efforts could go a long way in improving the issue.