Juneau police have launched an investigation into the alleged hazing of incoming high school freshmen.
Lt. David Campbell says two officers have been assigned to look into accusations reported earlier this week in the Juneau Empire about some upperclassmen paddling and injuring several students.
Campbell says the department had not heard from any victims prior to the story. Officers have since contacted a couple of parents of possible victims.
“We are actively investigating it to see what crimes were committed, if the victims and their families want to press charges,” he says.
Campbell says police are also working with the school district.
The alleged incidents happened after school was over for the summer and were not on school property.
District spokeswoman Kristin Bartlett says the administration has received reports of hazing and it doesn’t appear to be limited to one group of students.
“All three of our high school principals, from Juneau Douglas High School, Thunder Mountain High School, and Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School, are working together to follow any leads that they get on the issue,” Bartlett says.
Juneau School District has specific policies on bullying and hazing. The policies that define hazing as any act that endangers a person’s health or safety, or subjects them to physical discomfort and embarrassment because they’re part of a certain classroom, grade, or school activity.
Consequences can include expulsion.
It’s not clear how many students were involved in the recent incidents, but Bartlett says it’s important that parents and students tell school officials about the activity.
She also says it’s an opportunity to begin to change a culture that seems to accept hazing and bullying.
“If kids feel like this is something that just happens, we as a community need to speak up and make sure that kind of an attitude gets addressed,” Bartlett says.
TMHS head football coach Jeep Rice claims some of his players have been injured in hazing. He has coached high school football for years in Juneau, beginning in the 1980s at JDHS.
He says he has no tolerance for hazing. He recalls the time when his teenager was hazed.
“We were in the same boat 25 years ago as a scared parent of an incoming freshman who was thrown into Gold Creek semi-naked with girls all around to laugh it up and whatnot, you know with seniors there. It wasn’t life threatening, but we were pretty upset, we were pretty scared,” he says.
Rice says he tells parents whose teens have been victims of hazing to “prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”
Lt. Campbell says there are similarities between bullying, hazing, and domestic violence, including fear, retribution, and peer pressure, but there aren’t laws per se against bullying.
“You can’t turn to the bullying law in Title 11 of Alaska Statutes or in Title 42 of the CBJ statute, but a lot of the actions that get mentioned do meet some of the statutes and that’s what we have to look at,” he says. “Was a person injured, was a person placed in fear, was there offensive physical contact, were they engaged in challenging people to a fight, there’s all these things that do constitute violation of laws and we have to see if we have the elements of those offenses.”
Campbell says the officers assigned to the investigation are following up with witnesses, victims and parents to see if JPD can proceed with an actual case.