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Archive for Monday, May 14, 2012

Overreacting

Authorities should realize that not all pranks by high school students amount to hazing or bullying.

May 14, 2012, 12:00 a.m. Updated May 14, 2012, 8:31 a.m.

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The high school years pack a lot of challenges on a teen, with tests of will, ranges of emotions, physical and mental maturation, evolution of relationships, learning to drive and 7 a.m. classes. Then there is homework, play rehearsals, sports and band practice.

So, during the final weeks of their senior year, it seems natural that some teens facing the matriculation to college or work by summer’s end might want to have a little fun.

Toilet paper gets thrown into trees in front of classmates’ houses, funny notes are written in grease pencil on car windshields, an underclassman’s hair gets a buzz cut when he’s not looking. All harmless acts easily repaired by a rainfall, elbow grease applied to a piece of glass and a trip to the barber.

In Lawrence, it’s called Senior Week. Students are warned by coaches and administrators not to push the limits, but most who have been in their shoes know it’s hard to resist pulling a prank or two.

And we learned this week that if a senior gets caught doing mischief, he or she faces hard justice just days before graduation.

Last week, three Lawrence High School senior boys who gave underclassmen buzz cuts were suspended for three days out of school and one day of in-school suspension.

The three boys gave their younger brothers and their brothers’ friends what they called “goofy haircuts.” This happened, according to a parent, with the underclassmen’s permission, parents’ approval and in a private home.

Similar incidents happened across town during Senior Week at Free State High School, where disciplinary action was taken against five senior boys for violating the district’s hazing policy. Reportedly, underclassmen also got buzz cuts.

Is this bullying or hazing, or a rite of passage? According to district policy, hazing is an act that “recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental health, physical health or safety of a student” to attain membership or affiliation with a district-sponsored activity or grade level attainment.

The district policy states those acts include:

• Forced consumption of any drink, alcoholic beverage, drug or controlled substance.

• Forced exposure to the elements.

• Forced prolonged exclusion from social contact.

• Forced deprivation.

• Assignment of pranks or other activities intended to degrade or humiliate.

Such acts described above are examples of bullying and should be dealt with severely. But the acts for which the LHS seniors were disciplined last week don’t meet this standard. It was in good fun.

School leaders overreacted.

Yes, bullying is dangerous and humiliating. Students, parents, teachers and administrators need to have a zero-tolerance policy against it.

But in this case, let the kids have a little fun.

Comments

pace 1 year, 11 months ago

I heard the parent of the main perpetrators had given approval, but I do not think the parents of the other boys had given approval or been informed before the event.

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Paul R Getto 1 year, 11 months ago

I suggest anyone who thinks this is funny and not a big deal show up at the corner of 10th and Mass Saturday noon. We'll be there with clippers to trash your hair and head and make it look as silly as possible. Then those who got shaved can take their new hairdos to church and to work on Monday and see if anyone notices. The administration, in my opinion, acted properly and they had authority to do so since it was activity-related hazing. Students have no right to participate in any activities.

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MarchHare 1 year, 11 months ago

It should also be worth mentioning here... that Free State suspended students based on rumors that there were similar "shavings" planned. Curious that there isn't similar public outcry in that scenario, isn't it? Mm, it does interest me, however, that we're so quick to jump on the "administration bad" bandwagon despite the fact that these kids had been thoroughly informed any head shaving would result in consequences BEFORE they headed home to make these "intelligent" decisions.

Ah well. Don't worry kids, even if you are duly informed of the consequences to your actions, mummy and daddy will be there to raise unnecessary outcry and try to weasel a way out of it for you when those consequences fall upon you based on your own poor choices.

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equalaccessprivacy 1 year, 11 months ago

Authorities who abuse power in handling discipline issues are the true, par excellence bullies. Too often schools and employers dole out harsh punishments before they even fully evaluate facts-- so unjust to brutalize innocent parties the way the stand-up KU HR people are famous for. Considering it's human to err, it's best be respond in an even-handed manner that includes due process.

It's especially despicable when authorities knowingly blame the victims to cover up their own wrongdoings. It certainly doesn't build respect for the integrity and good judgment of those in charge. All it does is to make those used to more civilized conduct ask, "What's the matter with Kansas"?

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MarchHare 1 year, 11 months ago

"The administration, faculty, and staff of LHS reserve the right to enforce reasonable dress guidelines to ensure a safe and orderly educational environment"

You realize, of course, this includes all aspects of and/or related to the appearance of the children you send to school everyday. Aspects of appearance, dress, and/or personal hygenie that are deemed inappropriate or alternation too much of a distraction to the learning environment are subject to regulation and reasonably so.

What amazes me is that everyone fails to realize one of two things happened here: Either A) it was so thoroughly distracting that it did, in fact, disrupt the learning environment, and really... if you're graduating High School you should know better than to act like a total moron the week before your graduation. Or B) NOT all of the parents were so duly informed of their young sons' decision to allow their hair to be shaved into ridiculous patterns in an undisclosed "private residence". Its not so outrageous to think that maybe the parent in this "private residence" failed to actually receive verbal permission from all of the young mens' parents prior to "the shaving".

Of course, there is also the possibility that one of the students DID only go along with the whole thing based on the pressure of the situation and regretted the decision later (read: Buyer's remorse).

In any case, the parents involved are those deserving of a slap on the wrist and a "shame on you". Realistically, it's not as though the school is "out to get" these kids, there was a reason for the punishment, either motivated by parental, student, or teacher complaint.

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easydoesit 1 year, 11 months ago

I wish that when my son was racially threatened at school we could have received this much attention to the issue. It is apparent what the school district deems important- Shaving heads is far more serious than threatening to lynch a student.

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4getabouit 1 year, 11 months ago

Goggle "school districts sued over hazing" and you'll understand why school districts react the way they do. When the lawyers swoop down and the smell of money kicks in parents change their minds about it being a harmless prank. The administration did what they had to do on the advice of their lawyers. Unless you live under a rock you should understand that the world is run by lawyers, not by what is fair.

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Jason Johnson 1 year, 11 months ago

It happened off school grounds and with the "victims'" permission. The school overstepped their bounds.

When I was in high school it was an honor to get hazed, at least among the athletes. It meant you were part of a team, like a big brother giving you a little crap. It meant you had their respect, that they saw you as their equals, and hoped you would carry the team on to victory the next year. You got invited to the best parties, you were treated well in the halls, you showed you could do what it takes to be a member of the team and support each other.

If you didn't let them haze you, or fought them off, or ran away, your life was miserable from then on out. The "wimps" were those people. The people receiving the hazing weren't considered wimps at all. This was in a small high school in Nebraska.

Was it right or wrong? I'm not qualified to answer that, but our hazing was never dangerous or harmful. Just silly little pranks to test your loyalty, and then rewarded (or shamed if you ran away like a punk).

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childof60s 1 year, 11 months ago

I have a junior at LHS, and have dealt with Brumgardt in the past. My experience has been the same as what is mentioned here. He refuses to take responsibility for his actions or his mistakes. My child was called derogatory racial and homophobic names (and is neither homosexual nor a minority) and no action was taken. I was told that is was a common occurrence and they couldn't police all of the incidents. At this point, he will not look me in the eye because he knows he is in the wrong. All he does is stand in front of the office, as ineffectual as possible, waiting for Doll to pull the puppet strings that allow him to do anything. I am counting the days until my child graduates and no longer has to endure this man and his ineptness. I am not a believer of lawsuits or that suing will ever fix what is wrong, but in this case I feel that the families involved have more than enough cause, and support, to take Brumgardt, Doll, and the entire district to court to remedy this ridiculous situation. Punishing and possibly damaging the future of these exemplary students is in itself bullying.

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sportingfan 1 year, 11 months ago

Schools all over Lawrence have "Crazy Hair Day". I think all the schools should be shut down for humiliating all their students in that way. Don't they know that those kids don't want to have crazy hair. They are pressured by the evil school administrations. Its bullying and should not be allowed. Close all Lawrence Schools that sponser Crazy Hair day!!!!

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ranger73 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm sure all my friends in the military appreciate being called idiots since they have their haircuts high and tight. Hair grows back. According to the story-being told here and amongst the students-the parents and the kids were fine with it, so obviously they have enough self-esteem to handle any "ridicule and humiliation" they may or may not have gotten when they went to school. The story also said they were younger siblings and their friends-how does that translate to "random underclassmen?" Besides, in the heat of Kansas, they are going to want that short haircut!

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Bud Stagg 1 year, 11 months ago

Proudmom, you are exactly right. While a wierd haircut is not that bad, where do we draw the line? It's all fun and good until someone gets hurt. That is what the frat kid that "voluntarily" dove into the 2ft deep pond was thinking last year. That wasn't meant to hurt anyone either. He's a lot more than humiliated.

someone who wants to get their hair buzzed and look like an idiot? What planet do you people come from?

What good does it do when you abuse, humiliate or assault someone else to make yourself feel like a superior Senior? There are plenty of other ways to let off steam.

My hat is off to the administration, they are put in a tough position. They have to err on the side of anti-hazing or anti-bullying. Think of the lawsuit if someone were to get hurt during "approved" senior prank week?

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asixbury 1 year, 11 months ago

Proudmom is probably a stick-in-the mud, too. This case was obviously not hazing since all kids involved, and parents, were just having fun. No one was hurt or humiliated. Hair grows back. Get over it!

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proudmom 1 year, 11 months ago

I have held my thought long enough on this matter. Parents need to realize that what took place at both schools is bullying and hazing no matter how you say that the students agreed to having their hair "cut". The "cuts" were totally done in order for the underclassman to be humiliated when they arrived at school the next day. It wasn't just siblings that got their heads shaved it was random underclassmen-NO seniors. Supposingly this was a " family fun event" done in a USD 497 employee home who should know the code of conduct regarding hazing since he has to have his athletes sign the form prior to each season, in which it states it is against school policy for any student to perform any pranks or other activities intended to degrade or humiliate classmates. I'm sorry, isn't that what the haircuts clearly did for those underclassmen. Their hair wasn't shaved off, their hair had patches of missing hair, heads half shaved, bozo cuts etc. so if that wasn't done to degrade or humiliate, I don't know what you would call it. It doesn't matter how good your child is in sports, academics or your wealth, it was done with the intent to degrade the underclassmen when they arrived to school the following morning. The Administrators took the appropriate measure to prevent any further classmen to have to endure this humiliation.

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Darrell Lea 1 year, 11 months ago

Until we live in a society that instinctively feels and displays empathy for all their fellow citizens I'd prefer that institutions like schools and their administrators err on the side of caution. Just because a minor supposedly gave verbal permission to be humiliated does not excuse the humiliating act itself. There are many other things minors aren't allowed to consent to.

We can "let the kids have a little fun" all sorts of other ways.

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Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 11 months ago

Were they trying to outdo Romney? He is still is trouble over those goofy haircuts he gave in prep school. There are an awful lot of similarities between the stories.

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DennisAnderson 1 year, 11 months ago

Here is a correction to this editorial: Lawrence Public School students' disciplinary records are not part of their official high school transcript, but are part of their private record with the school district. Previous information was incorrect in an article Friday and today's editorial. This editorial has been updated to eliminate the error. Dennis Anderson Managing Editor

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Benjamin Roberts 1 year, 11 months ago

I have no knowledge of the buzz cuts at Free State; however, the goofy cuts at LHS were not the result of bullying or hazing. The school-proclaimed bullies are far from that description. They are not young men known to act in that way. By everyone involved admissions they "asked" if they could do it. They had the approval of the school-proclaimed "wimps" (those bullied) and their parents.

Brungardt fails miserably on this call. He has assigned underclassman the titles of "bullied, losers, or wimps" when, in fact, they thought it was "cool." Even worse, he has permanently damaged the record of seniors by classifying them as bullies when they were not.

It is time for this new improved school board to take a close look at the antics of Doll and Brungardt. They are both bullies and should be suspended.

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nativeson 1 year, 11 months ago

The definition of hazing is often in the eyes of the parent, not the district. It is easy to use a rational approach to judging the situation until parents get involved. It is foolish to assume that all parties in this situation were completed happy with the acts that have been reported. The district does not react without pressure.

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