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Hazing at Palo Alto High School

Original post made by Bob Wenzlau, Crescent Park, on Dec 5, 2007

We chatted a length about this around the family dinner table about a hard hitting article about hazing at Palo Alto High. The article in the Viking speaks to the extent and tolerance of hazing. Thanks to the author and the editors.

Web Link

While no one can know the extent of the hazing problem, we were struck by an apparent tolerating attitude of "Boys will be boys". The administration and parents should support their captains to establish new traditions that can replace the hazing. Great traditions for teams are important and can exist without hazing -- fortunately this seems to be the norm at Paly. Introducing new traditions can also replace the aligned temptation for teen drinking.

Though this story cast a shadow over a sensational season the football team had, I am confident that the teams can address these problems with the proper support from parents and administration. Go Vikings!

Comments (20)

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 6, 2007 at 10:20 am

My daughter was "kidnapped" as a freshman initiation into a non school activity several years ago. Fortunately, she suspected that it might happen and was not too suprised. I however, was horrified at the idea. In this day and age, kidnappings from bedrooms are happening as a reality. Making teenage girls, or boys, victims in these initiations is a ridiculous idea and I really hope that the powers that be can stop them. This is definitely one tradition that should be stopped. It makes much more sense to give the "rookies" the job of cleaning the shoes of everyone else on the team, or some such, as a rite of passage onto the team rather than something potentially dangerous.

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Posted by another Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 6, 2007 at 12:31 pm

The silence is deafening on this topic.

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Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 6, 2007 at 3:16 pm

One of my kids, who graduated a few years ago, was a varsity athlete in 3 sports at Paly. She never experienced any type of hazing. In all of the sports, the coaches made it clear that hazing was not OK, and that there would be serious consequences. The coaches have to replace the hazing "tradition" with something that encourages team-building rather than harassment.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 7, 2007 at 3:05 am

Hazing is a good reason to reject any membership. In '53 I rejected an offer to pledge a fraternity when they told me there would be some hazing. I responded that if I would not let an Asian army abuse me I would sure as hell not accept abuse from so called friends. Anyone who subordinates his own interests to those of a tribe except for ultimately beneficial reasons is a fool, and an organization that asks such is frivolous.

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Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 10, 2007 at 11:10 am

Look, hazing is just the manifestation of our parents and societies pressure to be the best, toughest and most successful people we can be. This is how militaries make men from boys and how we win wars as an unstoppable team.
You want hazing to stop, stop driving a BMW/MERCEDES/LEXUS/JAG, stop wearing cloths that cost more per garment than a 3rd world annual salary. Stop your pride and your idology of financial success.
Teach your child to help others, be compassionate, volunteer, appreciate....the life they have is blessed relative to the rest of the country let alone the world.
If your child develops a stronger sense of community and compassion, they will chose to avoid any group requiring hazing, as it is a method to strip individuality and builds conformist thinking...
unplug parents....and also try being there for your kid rather than trying to be financially successful at the expense of your time spent with them...

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Posted by Gunn Grad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 10, 2007 at 11:22 am

To Parent,

Many years ago, as a senior at Gunn, the girls of the Senior Class would 'kidnap' girls in the junior class, and take them to breakfast in their pajamas at IHOP on El Camino. This was done every spring, as almost a right of passage to the next senior class. I was fortunate to have two friends I 'napped' that spring morning so long ago.

However, each and every one of us got parental permission from all parents concerned. I had to borrow my father's car, so I needed my parent's permission. I was 'grabbing' two friends in the early morning hours, and there was no way I would ever approach either of their houses without their parents permission.

Their mothers thought this was great fun, but wanted to make sure their daughters were in decent sleepwear (no holes, tears, faded, etc.), and they wanted to have bathrobes and slippers handy for me to take to insure they were warm enough to go out.

All the parents got up early to watch the fun, I got my 'victims', and we had a grand time at breakfast at IHOP.

Hazing cannot take place in any form without the knowledge of parents. If your child is involved in hazing someone else, and you don't know (or don't care) you need to become more active in the life of your child.


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Posted by Gunn Grad
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 10, 2007 at 11:33 am

I just read the web link to the Paly paper.

What the football players were/are doing is just plain juvenile and stupid. It isn't funny, it isn't classy, and quite frankly, beneath seniors of any high school in Palo Alto. (even the cross-town rival)

You guys aren't going to be so proud of yourselves when you run into your fellow team mates at future events. (i.e., class reunions - they come up and bite you when you aren't looking!)

What is it they say about payback? Don't do anything you wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of in years to come.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2007 at 11:52 am

from the article in the Viking: ""Football is a deadly sport, and that's the mentality you have as a player; you want to kill your opponent," he said. "It rubs off outside the field a little bit. It's hard to turn off that switch immediately once you get back into the locker room.""

This is a perfect example of how our culture has failed young men, for whom almost nothing has changed since I was a boy decades ago.

Competition is a good thing; wanting to win is a good thing. That said, sport is an opportunity to teach young persons the rewards of doing their best, of honoring their bodies, of learning how to handle stress, of honoring one's opponent (and hoping that one's opponent does his best, so that one can compete with the best, to bring out the best in both parties).

We see little of this is the just-plain-stupid circus that pro sports has become, driven by idiot jocks who don't have a brain in their head (just listen to the vapid commentary in most TV sports broadcasts, especially football - it sounds like most of the announcers barely made it past 7th grade).

Take all the above , and add to it the absolutely pathetic exposure to the worst of macho culture that young boy see in the media (games, MTV, iPod downloads, etc), and what do we get? The same kind of man that existed 40 years ago.

Things have gotten a lot better for women in the last 40 years; we can't say the same for men.

Thus, we have these juvenile and stupid hazing events, which have nothing to do with initiation, but are nothing more than sadomasochistic charades that let some young men (the perpetrators) feel an early sense of perverse power.

Real initiation is *always* within the guidance of a *wise* elder, and has a significance that is beyond the endurance of physical pain.

This hazing thing is weak, as are those boys who participate in it, and the adults who condone it. We've come to a sorry place in the culture of men.

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Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 10, 2007 at 4:57 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

Some recent posts today at Paly on this topic.

Campus reacts to hazing story: Web Link

Principal McEvoy releases administration response to hazing: Web Link

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2007 at 10:58 am

Is this person an adult in charge? Reporting to whom? This is EXACTLY the type of response that is utterly unacceptable. Unbelieve response! What are going to be the consequences for the adults in charge (and their bosses)???

Meanwhile, Stacey Kofman, Paly's athletic trainer has a different take on things.

"I'm not surprised," Kofman said. "We know it happens, but you can't do anything unless you see it in the act. It's only when it gets to the extreme that it's not good."

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Posted by Patricia
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 22, 2008 at 1:07 pm

Reporters from The Paly Voice wrote a story about the Paly administration's handling of hazing during Freshman Friday this year. Read it here: Web Link

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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 22, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Interesting how the title of the piece suggests that all the parents were up in arms. Actually, it looks like Ms McEvoy had a lot of support from parents and coaches who are sick of the practice. Here's an idea, though probably not nearly as much fun for those who enjoy pushing around underclassmen: make Freshman Friday about welcoming the youngest grade. They are new to high school -- why not put candy on each locker or sing silly serandaes or bring in ice cream at lunch or do something that does not, at base, seek to humiliate?

I say good for the administration for coming down on those kids. How much do you want to bet that the parents who were most up in arms were the ones whose kids were involved in the incidents? Maybe they should figure out what their kids are doing and tell the that making younger kids feel attacked is not the appropriate way to behave in a civilzed society? So much the better if the kids are scared of being suspended. Too bad they are worried about being "given up" by the others who participated and too bad they don't stand up and take responsibility for themselves. They knew that adults decried the practice last year. Too bad they didn't listen, and too bad the school and coaches are having to educate them about behavior while their parents think there's nothing wrong. Yuck.

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Posted by palo ato parent
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 22, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Also, Jackie McEvoy already cam out strongly against this last year. She made clear that hazing would not be tolerated. So some spoiled kids ignored her and hazed anyway. How dare their parents have a fit about their being punished just because McEvoy didn't specifically warn them not to haze on that particular day. These are not kindergarteners, who need to be told before each and every school event (known or unknown to the administration) exactly how to behave, and that they will be expected to follow the rules. That is ludicrous. Should teachers and coaches have to warn students before every test and game that cheating will not be permitted? Those parents who are basically arguing this should be ashamed.

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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Yeah, I'm betting these same kids have been allowed to skate away from bullying many times during their school careers. They have the kind of parents who are always making excuses for their kids but never apologizing for them or punishing them. It's a parenting problem.

Egging is not the end of the world, but neither is suspension. Perhaps they'll learn the lesson this time since no one at home is doing a good job.

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Posted by SY Reporter
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2008 at 10:33 am

The Paly Voice has extensively covered this year's Freshman Friday problem. You can find a column about it at this link: Web Link and also a map of where the incidences were: Web Link.

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Posted by but seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2008 at 12:19 pm

were the perpetrators required to make restitution? Perform cleanup of their mess? Apologize to the victims? Attend some sort of class on social aggressiveness? I know some were suspended and I applaud McEvoy on her decisiveness and firm stance. I was wondering what else was done. Not even touching the issue of why they felt harassment was inappropriate after the school coaches and staff told them it was unacceptable a year ago, if I were the parents of the seventh grader I would file a civil suit against the bully who terrorized and physically assaulted a child 6 years younger. I heard that the parents of several perpetrators went off on McEvoy about the suspensions because their precious darlings were not warned ahead of time that socially unacceptable and violent behavior would have consequences and not be dismissed a good fun. Any parent who thinks this is just hijinks is doing a disservice to everyone, both their own children and society in general who will have to deal with these kids as they gain adulthood.

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Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2008 at 3:53 pm

As the parent of another 10th grader who knows who the people suspended and who the one expelled were, I also know that the one who suffered expulsion was in similar trouble during his middle school years (I won't say which one but it was a PA school). When these kids are expelled, they are just sent to another middle school in the district. When it is in middle school, there is a choice of 2 schools, but in high school, there is only one.

The point is, the kids know who the bad kids are and when they see them expelled from middle school and then they turn up in the same high schools, there seems to be little long term follow through on what is going on with trouble makers.

This expulsion is not as a result of short thinking of a kid making a poor decision doing some highjinx, but of a kid who is constantly getting into trouble.

There are some ongoing troublemakers in our schools.

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Posted by Uncivilized leaders
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2008 at 4:16 pm

>Stacey Kofman, Paly's athletic trainer has a different take on things.

>"I'm not surprised," Kofman said. "We know it happens, but you can't do anything >unless you see it in the act. It's only when it gets to the extreme that it's not good."
What nonsense that you can't teach that something is wrong or forbidden until after the fact? Bullying is wrong even when it is mild. Decency and civil behavior are taught. Is this person paid to work in a SCHOOL?

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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 19, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Unfortunately some of the bullies at Paly are the teachers.

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Posted by Patricia
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 22, 2008 at 9:18 pm

After the Freshman Friday hazing incidents at Paly, many Paly parents were upset over the administration's handling of the situation. Read about it here: Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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