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Dexter High Football Players Suspended after Hazing Incident
11/27/2012   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

A dozen football players from Dexter Regional High School have been suspended for alleged hazing during a school sleepover earlier this month. The incident renews concerns about hazing - and casts a cloud at the end of a season that saw the Dexter High football team achieve its best record in two decades. Patty Wight reports.

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School officials aren't saying exactly what happened during the alleged hazing at the football team sleepover. But Dexter High School Principal Stephen Bell will tell you that there were multiple incidents that started at 5 o'clock in the morning.

"It involved a large, majority of kids," he says. "There were five separate incidents, so it was spread out."

According to the Bangor Daily News, a friend of school employees said freshmen were held down against their will and beaten with plastic hockey sticks and Wiffle ball bats to the point of drawing blood. Precisely true or not, Principal Bell says those targeted were physically well enough to return to school Monday, and those responsible are facing consequences.

"Twelve kids have been suspended for a variety of lengths of time," he says. "There's also a series of suspensions from athletic events going forward for those that are still involved in athletics, and those vary in length from at least a month, all the way back to only a week. But all of them come with conditions of return to play."

The sleepover started after a Friday night team banquet. Bell says around 25 to 30 members of the team stayed over at the school to hang out in the gym and play video games. The coaching staff chaperoned in shifts, and when the alleged hazing happened, Bell says two of them were in the building.

He wouldn't say whether the coaches will be punished, but says that both the school and the police continue to investigate the matter.

"Hazing is a growing concern - I think it's increasingly becoming something that's in the public eye, just like bullying is," says Elizabeth Allan, a professor of higher education at the University of Maine. Allan's spent years researching campus culture and hazing, and says nationally, 47 percent of high school students who participate in clubs or sports experience hazing.

She says it's often accepted - even by adults who are present - for the perceived positive aspects, such as promoting tradition, or group unity. But Allan says what can seem like a joke to one person can be degrading or harmful to another, and that schools need to send a strong message:

"That hazing is not a part of the school culture and won't be tolerated; holding students accountable, but also having discussions with the entire school community, not just some of the students."

Principal Stephen Bell says the school board and administration will revisit the policy on sleepovers. Up until this football team sleepover, he says they've been healthy experiences, and important.

"You know, we don't have YMCAs and things like that here, so it is a very normal activity here," he says. "We have 30-hour famines that are key clubs and sleepovers in the school. We have the homeless awareness thing that's a sleepover, we had a cheerleader thing just a few weeks ago - a lot of clubs, organizations, teams - this is the community building."

Bell says the school is sad and embarrassed, but he emphasized that the Dexter High students involved in the hazing incdient are by and large good kids who made a terrible mistake. Bell says the school plans to take steps help all the students - both the victims and the perpetrators - move forward.


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