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Tuesday, 12 November 2013 12:31

By Hutchison News, Nov. 11


The alleged hazing in the Hutchinson High School football program is disturbing, and the many unknowns – at least to the public – have led to much speculation.

While law enforcement likely won’t share more details pending a continuing investigation, the school district could be more forthcoming with the public about what it knows and what it is doing in response.

Three HHS seniors are charged with battery, and two of the three - the two who are charged as adults - also face a misdemeanor count of hazing for their role in a reported locker-room branding of four 14- and 15-year-old students. The branding, using manually heated wire clothes hangers, took place last week during when some freshmen move up to the varsity squad.

The big question is whether this was an isolated example of locker-room hijinks crossing the line or some kind of tradition of hazing that has been going on for a while. Also unknown is the sequence of events - namely whether school officials first learned of it and turned it over to law enforcement or whether it first was reported to law enforcement before the school took any action.

Public statements on the matter are coming through USD 308 Public Information Officer Ray Hemman. He has not confirmed whether a coach or teacher was present in the locker room at the time as required or whether the students have been suspended or expelled from school.

As for the sequence of events, Hemman said in his initial statement that head football Coach Randy Dreiling learned of an alleged hazing incident and turned the matter over to administrators and Hutchinson police after an initial investigation. Hutchinson Police Sgt. Tyson Meyers, however, said the alleged branding, first was reported by parents of the victims.

School administrators no doubt will say that some legal policy precludes them from releasing more information, but time and again we have seen that when something negative happens, the instinct of school administrators - and leaders of other public institutions – is to clamp down and keep quiet. This approach, however, automatically leads to speculation and people assuming the worst.

In this case, many will assume – despite the district’s claim that Dreiling made an announcement to the team that hazing would not be tolerated - that the culture of the Salthawk football program breeds such behavior. It is no stretch to believe that just by watching the profane rants of the coach – no secret tape recordings necessary – on the sideline of any game.

Or, absent any reassurance, people may be led to believe that the cultural problem goes even higher, to the athletic director, school principal and even school district superintendents who have condoned this coaching style and not enforced higher standards for faculty and student conduct at the high school.

Hiding in the bunker only breeds rumors and distrust. The school district, HHS and the football program would be much better served by being forthright and forthcoming with all the information that it can provide. And even if that information might still be incomplete, a strong statement that such conduct is inexcusable and that the school district itself is taking it seriously, investigating it fully – it’s not enough just to delegate it solely to the police – and will hold anyone responsible fully accountable, would instill more public confidence in the school district, school, athletics program and administrators.

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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