Just a few days ago, state association Executive Directors were notified through the National Federation of High School Associations of a second high school football program being shut down this season amid allegations of hazing and bullying.
The southeastern Pennsylvania high school joins a program in New Jersey in this unprecedented action by the local school systems. The allegations were so pervasive and horrific the school leaders felt they had no other options.
The school system Superintendent is quoted in his news release: “It is the Head Coach’s job and the Athletic Director’s job to ensure no hazing or bullying practices, at any level, at any time, or any place ever occur within your program. It is your responsibility to communicate this clearly and through words and action, ensure that it never happens on your watch. It is unacceptable at the lowest levels as much as it is the highest. It is also simple and straight forward – NONE is tolerated.”
Issues of bullying and/or hazing, unfortunately, arise in many elements of our school settings and the broader society. Think back to incidences we have seen or heard of in recent months and years. Schools have made concerted efforts for many years to address the problem. The State Assembly ratified “anti-bullying” legislation a number of years ago and again in 2011. Still tragic incidences occur at all levels and in all corners of our education system. Education-based athletics is not exempt from the effects of these intolerable acts. Everyone should realize these acts are not school pranks or team rituals or “rights of passage” as they may have been viewed in previous times.
Bullying and/or hazing are not limited to a specific gender, either. We should recall, as well, that these acts are not always conducted face to face, or through an ugly note passed around in school. Cyber bullying and the use of social media is now an integral component of the harassment and intimidation of others. The legislation of 2011 does a very good job of describing the problem, detailing the obligations of our schools and of the processes to address violators. However, unless we are willing to take on this problem at its roots, no laws, no legislation can eliminate bullying from our athletic programs.
As the Pennsylvania Superintendent stated . . . “address this issue proactively and in a timely manner . . . Keep a close watch on your program(s) . . . empower (others) to police behaviors.”
Teach the life lessons that bode well for our student athletes and continue to send the message: bullying and hazing have no role in our schools and our athletic programs
– Gary Phillips, Executive Director