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today's mepham coverage

[Previous entries on the Mepham hazing are here, here here here here here, here, here and here.]

We start with Newsday's Paul Vitello, who has been covering the human interest aspect of the case.

The comparisons to the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal are hard to resist.

In both, there is a religion at the heart of an afflicted institution - Catholicism and football - and in both, the religion itself is not the issue.

The issue shared by both scandals is a self-protecting silence at the core that permits children to be hurt.

This is an idea that has been running like a small current of electricity through my mind, prodding my like a tazer every once in a while.

Trust - the one thing that kids almost instinctively give to those who are supposed to protect and nurture them. You trust you parents, your teachers, your clergyman, your coach.

So when something bad happens to a child on their watch, one could assume they feel let down. They perhaps lose a little bit of that trust. Imagine that poor child now put in the position of knowing that the person who was supposed to watch out and care for him is complicit in that something bad. Silence does equal complicity.

Almost a month after the crimes took place in a closed universe of 60 players and five coaches in a few small buildings in the middle of the woods, the Pennsylvania state police still don't have what they consider enough supporting testimony to bring charges.

The only word for that is shameful.

Moving on to the Newsday sports section, Steve Jacobson takes on the case.

Jacobson also bring religion into the mix:

I much prefer conversation with Msgr. Tom Hartman of "The God Squad" telling me, "Keep on this. We need to say, 'Never again.'"

If not now, when? The subject should have been on every pulpit on Long Island last weekend. Clergy and social workers are obligated to know what's in children's heads, and sports occupies a large space. It's not enough for church, synagogue or mosque to say this incident is not in the curriculum. Teachers are taught that the first rule is to make things relevant. Here it is.

He's right. Other schools should be talking about this. Coaches of sports teams across the Island - hell, across the country - should be using the Mepham incident to teach some valuable lessons to their athletes.

And let's not stop at athletes, take it to all the students. As much as so many columnists are harping on the "football mentality" of the hazers, this is not something that is specific to sports. Go back and look at the links I posted yesterday. Hazing is prevelant in all forms of school structure.

Selena Roberts of the New York Times:

But long before the woes of technology, and the detachment of stressed-out parents, there was the culture of the locker room. To understand how much courage it takes to come forward, imagine the consequences for breaking the boundaries of a distorted team concept.

This is not Mepham; this is everywhere, at levels far above prep.

Roberts then lists several instances in pro sports where silence was the rule of the day.

I think columnists are doing a great disservice to the Mepham community and their readers at large by making this a locker-room mentality issue. Hazing is an epidemic. Hazing is about power, and it's not only football players who seek that power over others. Even within the geekiest of fraternities, there are hazing rituals that would stand your hair on end.

Make it relevant, as Steve Jacobson said. Use this story as a starting point to talk to your kids, your students, your friends. Ask them, what would you do in this situation? Ask, how can we make sure this never happens to in our district, to our kids?

Newsday has a related story today on overnight school trips:

Educators in many districts said the Mepham incident has spurred them to review their field trip policies. Chaperoning ratios, tightly booked itineraries and firm communication with students and parents are strategies they have used to ensure student safety on overnight trips.

My own daughter, only 13, is going on a three-day, two-night trip to Washington D.C. in November with her class. Am I worried? Of course I am, what mother wouldn't worry?

But you bet I am going to take this Mepham case and make it relevant. We not only learn from our own mistakes, but from the mistakes of others.


Michele, keep on this story. I'm too far away from Long Island to have any real news coverage from local sources but this is far more than a localized issue.
One refrain that keeps repeating through the excerpts of the stories you quote is 'locker room mentality'. Having spent my working life in a locker room twice a day, before and after a shift, I know there is such. The back and forth that goes on in a Patrol Officer's locker room would make the average liberal cry tears the size of horse turds. That is not hazing, though.
The hazing mentality is different. It's the same mentality as a rapist, it's about humiliation and power.
A locker room, wether it be sports, law enforcement or military will give the new guy (and now, gal) a hard time until the new guy proves that he, or she, can be depended on, be a valuable member of that team. That's not hazing, either.In sports the testing is important, in the military or law enforcement locker room it's a matter of life and death.
Where's the line between hazing and the rites of passage? Humiliation and abuse. It's the same line between sex and rape.

I know people make the comparison to the sexual abuse crisis of the Catholic Church -- but this particular crime is much closer to the sexual assault on Abner Louima by New York City police officer Justin Volpe which involved sodomy by a man on a man with a stick. Silence also was at issue in that case, as various officers of the NYPD refused to testify and ultimately gave conflicting testimony.

A half century ago I was asked to join a fraternity. When it was explained to me that the pledge night might incorporate some physical abuse, I responded that 9 hundred million Chinese had tried to physically abuse me but failed, so I was not about to accept abuse from anyone else without responding as I had to the Chinese.
I did not join.