The Seattle school district has “banned” 11 Garfield High School students suspected of participating in a recent off-campus hazing incident until officials decide whether further discipline is warranted.
The students were told Friday not to return to class on Monday. Such “emergency expulsions” generally don’t last longer than two weeks, said Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Teresa Wippel.
“It’s not an official disciplinary action. It just removes students from the school environment while the investigation is being conducted,” she said. “They are banned from coming on campus, and they also can’t participate in any sports or extracurricular activities while they’re emergency expelled. So they’re not supposed to have any contact with Garfield at all.”
Generally, Wippel said, “Ten days is the most that we would keep anybody out. And during that time, we do encourage the students to do their classwork at home and to keep on top of their work by corresponding with their teachers.”
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Eight of the 11 students also have been identified by Seattle police as suspects in the incident, Wippel said.
Garfield Principal Ted Howard and a group of police officers broke up a large student gathering after school on Sept. 27 at the Washington Park Arboretum. They discovered underclassmen were being paddled, wearing diapers, having eggs thrown at them and shoe polish put on them.
In an email to parents, Howard said the group of about 100 students was drinking “hard alcohol and beer.” After he arrived, several shouted profanities as they ran away, including one who tossed a racial slur at Howard, who is African American. At least one fender-bender accident occurred nearby, caused by the fleeing students running in front of cars, Howard said.
Howard recognized some of the students’ faces, though others ran before he could identify them, and some were wearing disguises, Wippel said.
The school’s website says hazing is not tolerated, will result in suspension and that acts of hazing “will be considered criminal offenses and treated as such.” Incidents are reported “to ALL college school applications and/or work references” of those involved, the website says.
It’s not clear how many students were subjected to the hazing, but students and school officials have made clear that these types of incidents, known as “froshing,” are nothing new at the school. Wippel characterized it as a “tradition” at Garfield.
Student Body President Kellen Bryan confirmed that: It happens twice a year, he said — on Fridays before the homecoming and “purple and white” weekends. The student government doesn’t condone it. In fact, it provides alternatives, such as free barbecues, specifically to discourage students from taking part, Bryan said.
Another senior said it’s so pervasive in the school culture that some feel as though the only way to join clubs and meet upperclassmen is by first going through the “froshing.”
Howard’s letter asked parents to talk to their children about the issue and encourage them to take responsibility for their actions. Wippel said Howard and other school officials are investigating each of the 11 students on a case-by-case basis to decide if further discipline is warranted.
Information from The Seattle Times archives is included. Staff reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this report.
John Higgins: 206-464-3145 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jhigginsST