02 Sep, 2013
Someone here at Casa Fishbowl is starting ninth grade tomorrow. I am pretty excited for her. The parent orientation day took place back in January so I’ve had a few months to get accustomed to the idea. There was a tour of the building, and lots of great information to bring home and consider. The high school experience has come such a long way since I was a student (and my high school was quite progressive and had a some interesting programs that were unheard of elsewhere). I was thrilled to learn about Nepean’s fantastic drama program, their commitment to fitness and athletics… and more.
I sensed that staff at Nepean are passionate about the education and experience of their young charges. I walked away happy that day, but there was one thing gnawed at me, and has been ever since. What about the news stories exposing the froshing and hazing rituals that seem to come out every September?
This all first came to my attention in 2010. I’m not sure whether it was because the stories received so much media attention, or because we live near the school (or maybe it was because we were close to becoming parents of a high school student) but they hit close to home. Here’s an archived news story about it. If you read it, don’t skip over the comments. Some people obviously don’t think it’s a big deal, but I do. And then there was this:
“I entered Nepean High School in 2001, with the double cohort, and a sibling graduating that year. Every single day for three weeks I was egged, beaten, taped to trees, covered in mustard, honeyed and feathered, chased in cars, and shot by paintballs. All of that… Every day. My parents contacted the police and the school, but nothing was done and they were told it was just “kids being kids.” I also had text books stolen the same day I got them, which made me look like a bad student and cost me money to replace.
Some of the comments say students should just “take another route” and kids should have “sense to notice and avoid trouble.” It’s not possible when you’re the 13 year old target running home from groups of ten 18 year olds with cars.
I have rarely spoken of these events, but I have decided to open up in the spirit of saving other young students from going through what I went through.
Hazing was a major problem at Nepean nine years ago, and apparently they still have done little to prevent it.
It is worth saying that this happened 2001, but it still breaks my heart. This person has lived with this experience all of their lives. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be that person. And the example given above is probably (hopefully!) an extreme one, but I don’t think that ANY froshing is acceptable, even something as seemingly innocuous as tossing an egg at someone as they’re riding their bike. (Speaking of which, there’s also this story about a kid being charged for running over another kid’s bike.)
I am certain that Nepean administrators are doing what they can to prevent this from happening, and it’s likely that only a small percentage of the student body is involved. On our orientation day I leaned about something called the FUSE program, which is ultimately about mentoring and building a stronger and more inclusive school community, but the truth is that the admin’s reach can only go so far.
So here’s what I’m going to do.
Tomorrow I will go outside at 3:15 when school lets out. I will take the dog for a walk, making sure that my route includes the streets bordering the school. My plan is to do this until about 4:00. And I’ll bring my phone with me, just in case.
I don’t expect much, but my small hope is that maybe the presence of an adult will help deter any drive-by eggings and provide a small comfort to the young students who will be walking home, hoping they don’t end up taped to a tree.
Will there be froshing this week? I hope that my action will be rendered useless and that nothing happens, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Froshing may be considered tradition in some people’s minds, but in mine it is nothing but bullying, plain and simple, and it’s unacceptable.
What do you think? If you live in Westboro will you please consider taking a stroll around the neighborhood at 3:15? Or perhaps sharing this post with someone who can? Even if you can’t walk, even sitting on your front porch at that time might really help someone. Thank you!