Is forcible ‘tea-bagging’ just hazing?
Published Thursday, 09-Mar-2006 in issue 950
sex, politics and law
by Robert DeKoven
A few weeks ago, attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights were in town to protest a federal judge’s ruling here that said the Boy Scouts of America cannot obtain public subsidies if it discriminates against kids and their parents on the basis of their religious or sexual orientation.
One has to wonder where the Department of Justice and the Department of Education are when public schools show indifference to sexual violence masquerading as hazing. points out sports-related hazing stories that involve same-sex sexual assault. You rarely see these stories anywhere else.
Apparently, the latest fad is for collegians to photograph college athletes while they’re being hazed. Outsports shows photos of newly initiated lacrosse players wearing G-strings and panties, while other photos show new players licking the nipples of senior teammates. Those stories, however, are rather benign compared to the stories involving high school athletes.
One such story involved what school officials termed a hazing incident, which involved three varsity wrestlers and three coaches at Argo Community High School near Chicago. The school suspended the wrestlers and coaches for a hazing incident that involved the “tea-bagging” of several freshman wrestlers.
Cyd Zeigler Jr. reports that the incident occurred on a bus trip home last year on Dec. 1. Following a 67-0 thumping of Bremen High School, the team was jubilant on the bus. According to the Daily Southtown, the three varsity wrestlers pulled freshmen, one by one, to the back of the bus. There, two of the boys held each boy down as the third boy shoved his testicles in the freshman’s face.
The wrestling coaches, who are now presumably serving partial-season suspensions one at a time, were apparently at the front of the bus and had no idea what was going on. The coaching staff has been instructed to, in the future, disperse themselves throughout the bus when traveling.
Oddly, according to the Daily Southtown, many parents and wrestlers interviewed had heard, seen or even participated in hazing incidents at Argo and other high schools, some of them still defending hazing as an important part of initiation in athletics at all levels.
It doesn’t end there. Outsports also reports that the Deer Park school district on Long Island in New York has cancelled the remainder of the season for the high school’s JV basketball team, suspended three players and removed the coach from the classroom (he is also a teacher) while it investigates reports that older boys hazed a younger teammate, school officials told Newsday.
The victim was an eighth grader playing on the team, as happens with many JV teams in smaller school districts. The three suspects allegedly put the boy in a headlock and touched his groin area.
Long Island drew national interest when in 2003 a high-school hazing incident involved members of the Mepham High School football team sodomizing younger players with golf balls, pine cones and broom handles at a football camp in rural Pennsylvania. The school cancelled the entire football season and fired the entire coaching staff.
Several years ago, a baseball player at a local high school here sued the school because its baseball coaches knew about a hazing ritual that involved raping new players with a broomstick handle.
The school district settled the case for a hefty sum. The district attorney, then Paul Pfingst, planned to prosecute the boys who committed the rape for a variety of crimes, but none of them involved sexual assault. He contended that the crime was not sexual in nature. Pfingst changed his mind when we pointed out to him that rape with a broomstick is sexual assault, regardless of whether the perpetrators have erections.
Prosecutors, however, need to charge these coaches, who almost always know what’s going on, with aiding and abetting sexual assault and child abuse. At the very least, the California Education Code makes it a criminal act to require someone to perform a humiliating act in order to gain acceptance into a club or activity. The victim’s “consent” is not a defense.
Coaches who condone hazing, steroid use and bullying don’t deserve to be coaching. They deserve jail time.
Robert DeKoven is a professor at California Western School of Law.

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