By Diana Park
After picking up my kids from school about a month ago, they told me that the football game that night had been cancelled. They weren’t sure about the details, but they knew it had something to do with the coaches getting in trouble.
I immediately dismissed that, thinking it was a rumor. After all, the game was probably cancelled due to COVID. I was wrong.
I heard on the news the following morning that the two coaches were being investigated for hazing. There were a few players (including the captain) who were kicked off the team, and the rest of the football season was in jeopardy.
Apparently, earlier in the season before school started, the coaches took the players on a retreat to the local beach. While they were there, a few of the new players were physically assaulted by other members of the team. It took two months for the story to come out and the details of what the teens were subjected to by their teammates were graphic and disturbing. It’s still not clear whether the coaches were present and aware of what was happening, but they were both fired and the kids weren’t able to finish their football season.
High School Hazing Is Happening
To say I was floored is an understatement. I know about hazing, of course, but I didn’t think it was even a thing that happened anymore—especially at the high school level. It wasn’t even something that was on my radar as a parent. I had never talked to my kids about what hazing is or how dangerous it can be. Until now.
While I want my kids to be respectful to their teachers and coaches and do their best at school, I also know it’s important to teach them to trust their own instincts. I’ve told my teens that they should never do anything that makes them feel unsafe, or that they know isn’t right, just because someone is in a position of authority has told them to do it. If anything gives them even an inkling of discomfort, I want them to trust and follow that feeling.
It can be so confusing for teens to unpack and process an event like what happened at our high school. These coaches were also teachers and many people trusted them—including the parents of the students involved. The fact that this happened under their watch is really scary.
I want to give my kids the confidence and skills to speak up when something is happening that isn’t right.
I hope I’m guiding them to not only stand up for themselves but to also stand up for other students who may not feel confident enough to speak up. I’ve told them that when they’re in a difficult situation and uncertain about how to handle it, it’s okay to say “no”—and to do whatever it takes to find an adult who will listen to their concerns.
I want my kids to trust themselves and their instincts because I know I can’t be around them all the time. Doing the right thing—even if they think something is funny or harmless or doesn’t really have anything to do with them—is important. I want to give them the confidence to be able to go against the crowd and stand up for themselves. And I want them to know I support them, whatever the outcome.
Until the details of this awful event came out, I was completely in the dark about the realities of hazing. I didn’t want to believe it was something I needed to worry about or even discuss with my kids. It’s scary to be reminded that I can’t trust that every adult or authority figure my kids come into contact with have their best interests at heart. But I know the best defense is to keep talking to them, listening to them and trusting them when they tell me something doesn’t seem right. Most of all, I want them to know that—no matter what—I will always be a safe place to land.