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It’s not about whether anyone was hurt

November 15, 2010
By MIKE MATHISON, Sports editor

Adults continue to excuse stupid behavior.

Girls soccer players at a high school in Needham, Mass., were suspended due to accusations of hazing younger players.

The quintet, four seniors and a freshman, allegedly finished the Oct. 29 "hazing incident" by throwing pies in their teammates' faces.

The coach was put on administrative leave, the school told the Boston Globe, for not reporting the incident immediately.

It didn't take long for the parents of the suspended girls to go to court seeking an injunction to allow the girls to play in the state tournament.

A judge said no (correctly, in my opinion), refusing to overturn the school's decision. Needham lost, 7-1.

The daughter of the coach was one of the players suspended.

It gets better.

Todd D. White, a lawyer and father of one of the freshmen who was allegedly targeted, told television station WHDH that no one was hurt.

"The consequences of the investigation were infinitely more harmful than anything that any of these kids went through," he said. He told the news station the incident was more of a teambuilding exercise gone wrong than it was hazing.

"(My daughter) loves these seniors, supports these seniors, and is mortified that in any way these seniors are harmed, their college careers are harmed," White told WHDH.

OK, college careers?

A little drama there, dad?

"Our daughter is a responsible adult," wrote Lisa and Craig Newfield, parents of one player, in the court complaint. "From her and her cohort we hear that the incident was misguided, but no real harm was done. Their sentiment, and ours, is: it happened, it's over, let's move on. Jessica was not hurt by the events, and continues to respect the seniors and feels like a respected member of the team."

I agree no one got hurt, here.

But, again adults, that is not the point.

Because, if someone had gotten hurt, the girls were in more trouble than a suspension.

It's about kids doing stupid things and being held accountable for their actions and it's about adults continuing to excuse kids for being stupid.

Where is the one adult who would look at their kid and simply say, "you got what you deserved."

It's about a coach who, from what it appears, had no clue what was going on.

It's about a school district keeping these kids accountable for their actions.

It's about a judge telling the adults their misguided attempts to make excuses for their kids are wrong and the kids will sit and watch.

I am glad the judge was not about the "win at all costs" mentality.

What is wrong with a suspension when a kid steps over the line?

What is wrong with actually taking those players who have done something stupid and actually making them sit on the bench and watch?

What's wrong with a red card when a red card is warranted?

A red card was warranted here and that's what they got?

They'll get over it. They'll learn.

But, will the adults.

"I don't see any way those kids could think that was appropriate behavior," Paul Wetzel, spokesman for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, told WBZ-TV.

The principal, Jonathan Pizzi sent an e-mail to Needham parents in which he did not provide the reasoning behind his decision to suspend 10 players and prevent 12 to 13 from playing in a district tournament game.

"Sometimes terrific kids make awful mistakes, and it is our collective job as adults - parents and educators alike - to hold them accountable for their behavior and to help them learn and grow from the experience as well,'' he wrote.

I like him.

He gets it.

"These events have to be handled firmly and directly,'' said Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. "It's not just the students directly involved; it's the whole culture of the school. Everyone is watching how the adults are going to respond, and if the adults don't send a message with some degree of severity, it's as if they're condoning it.''

"The only thing I can say is that hazing is a form of bullying,'' said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. "I would say parents are responding almost as they always do, but when things cool down, people generally see that the school has taken an appropriate response.''

Massachusetts passed a law in 1985 requiring all high schools to enforce antihazing policies.

It applies to secondary schools and carries up to a year in prison and a $3,000 fine for anyone convicted of being a principal organizer or participant in hazing.

It defines hazing as "any conduct or method of initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person. Such conduct shall include whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance, or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity which is likely to adversely affect the physical health or safety of any such student or other person, or which subjects such student or other person to extreme mental stress, including extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation.''

The law also says "consent shall not be available as a defense to any prosecution under this action.''

One parent, Nick Bollas, a father of a freshman on the team, thought going to court was the right thing to do.

"Our concern was not the game,'' he said. "Our concern (was) that the event of the evening did not justify the punishment. "The events of the last five days have been a lot more detrimental to my daughter's well-being than the incident that happened."

Sorry, dad, your concern was the game, as it was with, it seems, most of the parents.

And, I'm still trying to figure out what "more detrimental to my daughter's well-being" means.

Hey, adults, stop crying about your kids.

It's time for them to be taught a lesson.

Of course, that is after you learn yours - if that's possible.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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