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NFHS Addresses the Hazing Issue


Even though the issue doesn’t directly impact team dealers, the message recently sent out from Dr. Karissa Niehoff, executive director of NFHS, regarding hazing issues at high schools across America certainly hits close to home. Team Insight Extra excerpts some of her comments in a recent letter to members:

If we needed evidence on a larger scale about the potential devastating effects of hazing within the athletics setting, the recent events at Northwestern University should cause all high school leaders to stand up and take notice.

What seems like innocent fun at first – making freshmen handle the unpleasant chores as an example – can sometimes spiral out of control and lead to loss of jobs for coaches, shattered lives for students and parents, and shame for the community at large.

Year after year, events such as the football hazing scandal that jolted the Northwestern campus continue to occur – at the high school and college levels. Although we are shocked, distraught, disappointed, discouraged and downright angry, progress over time seems limited at best.

As middle schools and high schools begin classes, and as fall sports teams hit the practice fields, this is another chance – the next chance – for coaches and administrators to do what is right. Bringing a halt to longstanding rituals may not be a popular decision in some settings, but in most cases, it is the BEST decision for the health and well-being of the students.

BEFORE the season starts is the time to lay down the ground rules, share the expected behavior and make it clear that every person is to be valued and that hazing will not be tolerated.

By definition, hazing is any humiliating or dangerous activity expected of a student to belong to a group, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate. Any kind of initiation expectations should never be part of high school sports or performing arts.

Over the past two years, a number of horrific hazing incidents have occurred during the first month of the school year. Last year, in the month of August alone, there were five highly publicized incidents across the country – one of which forced cancellation of a school’s entire football season.

Now is the time to change. Establishing an anti-hazing culture is the first step as the new school year begins. And that culture may need to include a different plan for welcoming new members. Inclusion must be accomplished without a “requirement” for being a part of the team.

To build a positive school culture, coaches and athletic directors must take proactive steps. School leaders must supervise student-athletes and make it clear to every student that hazing will not be tolerated. An anti-hazing policy must be developed, and it should be presented to every student and parent in advance of every sport season. The policy should be simple – no tolerance for hazing of any kind.

In an opinion piece on, Elizabeth Allan, a professor of higher education at the University of Maine, had the following to say about the importance of hazing prevention in high school athletics programs:

“If we value the well-being of children and young adults in our lives, then hazing has no place in our athletic programs, schools, campuses and communities.

“Hazing prevention is not only about eliminating harm and senseless suffering, but it’s also about gaining something. In the absence of hazing, we can build stronger and healthier groups, more ethical and caring leaders, and more inclusive communities that support student mental health and well-being. The alarming reports of hazing at Northwestern are a clarion call for prevention and, with that, an opportunity for each of us to transform the hazing culture and create safer schools and campuses for our students.”