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Hazing incidents can have ripple effects for years to come

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What precisely occurred on the Brunswick Excessive soccer workforce’s in a single day retreat in August at Thomas Level Seaside has not been defined publicly.

What is understood is that the varsity superintendent has taken significantly the allegations that older gamers hazed youthful gamers. Each the varsity division and the Brunswick Police Division have performed investigations. Coaches have been positioned on depart. College students have been booted from the workforce.

However whereas the varsity division’s investigation has been accomplished and a few disciplinary motion has been taken, the total results of the alleged hazing won’t be identified for years.

“There’s at all times ripple results,” mentioned Elizabeth Allan, a College of Maine professor and founding father of the analysis group StopHazing. “You’re coping with the people concerned, each the individuals who really feel they had been on the receiving ends and people who deliberate the actions, their households and mates.

“Then there’s the workforce itself, the way it impacts the belief inside the workforce, and it has ripple results past that as a result of, in fact, all the opposite college students are watching and studying,” Allan added. “It may be a possibility to actually shift the norms. And that will depend on how the oldsters in management roles select to reply.”

Hazing in American faculties is widespread. At its worst it may be extraordinarily harmful, even deadly. Different occasions it is likely to be barely acknowledged. However in each type, hazing boils all the way down to these holding energy in a bunch requiring somebody becoming a member of or taking part in a bunch to have interaction in an exercise that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers them, no matter an individual’s willingness to take part.

Most states, together with Maine, have academic requirements that require faculties to have insurance policies that forbid hazing. Nonetheless, 47 p.c of school freshmen report they had been hazed in highschool, based on Allan’s 2009 analysis, which remains to be thought of the definitive research on highschool hazing.

Elliot Hopkins is the director of sports activities sanctioning and pupil providers on the Nationwide Federation of State Excessive College Associations, the nationwide governing physique of highschool sports activities. Over the previous 28 years he has delivered over 300 public displays geared toward getting faculty communities to study hazing, its results, and methods to counteract it. He mentioned he has been concerned as an expert useful resource in about 1,000 hazing-related lawsuits – a sobering statistic in itself – and appeared as an skilled witness in 20 trials.

Hopkins mentioned as soon as the preliminary investigation is performed and penalties are laid out, there may be sometimes a quiet grace interval.

“This may die down for a few 12 months after which what occurs, legal professionals begin lining up,” he mentioned.


Phil Potenziano, the Brunswick faculties superintendent, mentioned he turned conscious of attainable hazing, bullying or assault on the retreat round Sept. 8 and commenced an inner investigation. He notified soccer mother and father on Sept. 16 and made it clear Brunswick had a “zero-tolerance” coverage when it got here to acts of hazing, bullying or assault.

Per week later, Potenziano canceled the workforce’s homecoming sport and positioned head coach Dan Cooper and assistant coach Greg Nadeau on nondisciplinary administrative depart from their teaching duties.

The Brunswick Excessive soccer workforce was allowed to renew practices final week, however with out two coaches positioned on depart and a few gamers kicked off the workforce for the remainder of the season. Ben McCanna/Employees Photographer

Whereas the workforce was allowed to renew practices on Tuesday and play a sport at Skowhegan on Friday night time, Cooper and Nadeau stay on depart, and an unspecified variety of gamers have been faraway from the workforce for the rest of the season. Taking part in with out a number of of their traditional starters, Brunswick misplaced 61-14.

Potenziano mentioned Friday night in an e mail to the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram that he had acquired the investigation report from the varsity division’s authorized counsel, and would want time to evaluate it completely. He added that he had not made any choice relating to the long run standing of the 2 coaches.

Brunswick has been one of the crucial profitable highschool soccer packages within the state over the previous decade. Cooper, now in his seventeenth 12 months as head coach, earned his a centesimal profession win within the 2019 season en path to the Dragons capturing the Class B North championship for a second straight season and the fifth time in six years, together with an undefeated state championship run in 2016.

This was alleged to be a season of celebration for Cooper and his household. His sons Dalton and Wes are each seniors and starters on the workforce. Cooper was additionally trying ahead to Oct. 15, when Brunswick is scheduled to host perennial Class An influence Bonny Eagle, coached by his cousin Kevin Cooper.

Dan Cooper mentioned he was not keen to remark in regards to the scenario but aside from to say, “It’s been a nightmare.”


On a quiet Thursday afternoon, the shoppers at eating places, espresso outlets and boutiques on Brunswick’s downtown Maine Avenue had solely passing information of the alleged hazing incident. Some had been unaware of it altogether. However whether or not they had been Brunswick residents, customers or staff from a close-by city or vacationers from Alabama, Kansas Metropolis and North Carolina, all agreed on one key level: any type of hazing is improper.

“It doesn’t matter if there isn’t any bodily hurt. It’s that it’s older children doing it to youthful children. It’s abominable,” mentioned Melissa Kimball, a resident of neighboring Topsham who works at one among Maine Avenue’s retail shops. “I’m asking myself, do they nonetheless try this within the twenty first century? And the place are the grown-ups? The place are the adults who’re alleged to be managing these things?”

“My boys had a really optimistic expertise with Brunswick soccer and I’m very unhappy to listen to that this occurred,” says Laura Lienert of Brunswick. Ben McCanna/Employees Photographer

Laura Lienert of Brunswick mentioned her two sons Augie and Mitchell Lienert each performed 4 years of highschool soccer at Brunswick, graduating in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

“I’ll say my boys had a really optimistic expertise with Brunswick soccer and I’m very unhappy to listen to that this occurred,” she mentioned. “It’s by no means OK for anybody to really feel like one thing like that’s occurring to them, however with that being mentioned, my boys had an amazing expertise.”

Lienert emphasised that neither she nor her sons had been ever conscious of hazing exercise related to the soccer workforce.

Katie Peacock, 21, additionally attended Brunswick Excessive College and mentioned she was shocked by the hazing allegations. “That’s by no means occurred that I’ve heard of once I was there,” she mentioned.

Bau Graves of Harpswell:  “I believe folks ought to deal with one another with decency and respect and hazing doesn’t qualify. Any kind of hazing.” Ben McCanna/Employees Photographer

Bau Graves, 69, of Harpswell mentioned he has no real interest in highschool sports activities, or sports activities generally. However hazing, as an act, is at all times demeaning.

“I believe folks ought to deal with one another with decency and respect and hazing doesn’t qualify. Any kind of hazing,” Graves mentioned. “So long as I’ve been conscious of hazing, it has at all times appeared like a horrible factor to me.”

Stephen Beaulieu, 27, of Harpswell mentioned the idea {that a} hazing ritual will increase workforce camaraderie is flawed. Hazers may assume they’re pushing gamers to “get their finest video games and their finest efficiency,” he mentioned, “when in actuality it simply takes a toll on their psychological well being and it simply brings them down.”


Throughout the nation, younger folks have suffered vital bodily accidents, been sexually assaulted and even died because of hazing.

Rumors have abounded about what befell throughout the alleged hazing incident involving the Brunswick soccer workforce. And there may be video proof, based on Brunswick Police Chief Scott Stewart, that means the incident could have unfold throughout the school-age neighborhood through social media.

Earlier than feedback had been scrubbed from the Brunswick Soccer Fb web page, which isn’t run by the varsity, a number of followers scoffed on the seriousness.

“I heard one factor and if that’s all that occurred then that is being blown WAY out of proportion,” mentioned one publish. One other publish famous that the homecoming soccer sport shouldn’t have been canceled due to the actions of “a number of dangerous apples.” One commenter mentioned the entire workforce discovered the incident humorous and when she heard what occurred, she agreed.

However simply because gamers could have laughed doesn’t imply the alleged hazing incident prompted no hurt, mentioned Hopkins of the Nationwide Federation of State Excessive College Associations.

“It might sound innocent to you however the child who’s going via it’s petrified,” Hopkins mentioned. “We speak about three totally different teams in hazing. The perpetrator, the sufferer, and the bystander. And there’s two sorts of bystanders. The energetic bystander who’s (cheering them on) and the passive one who’s up towards a wall and pondering, ‘Thank God it’s not me once more, or not me this time.’ And that group will nearly definitely snicker solely as a result of they’re simply glad it’s not them.”

Hank Nuwer, an impartial journalist and former faculty professor, has tracked hazing deaths. In response to Nuwer, there was no less than one hazing dying related to a college, membership or group within the U.S. yearly from 1959 to 2019, with extra recorded in 2021. Since 2000, Nuwer has recorded 99 hazing deaths.

Allan, the UMaine professor, mentioned there isn’t any correct information on what number of hazing incidents occur yearly as a result of schools and faculties aren’t required to report incidents.

“We all know what makes it to newspapers, and the universities and universities that I work with and those who select to be clear,” she mentioned, “however at this level it’s not persistently carried out, so we don’t actually have the info.”

Hopkins mentioned in his expertise nearly all of hazing incidents which are found reveal an institutional sample of hazing – an “underlying present,” as he put it.

Hopkins mentioned it usually begins with seemingly small actions that share a core idea of the older, established members of a bunch forcing youthful members to do one thing to show they’re worthy of being a part of a workforce.

“It may very well be freshmen have to scrub all of the music devices in a band, or the women’ soccer freshmen have to hold the water bottles,” Hopkins mentioned. “Then it will get escalated.”

Hopkins means that any faculty that has had a hazing incident must do a radical evaluate of all of its groups and golf equipment. “If they’ve one group that does it, they’re going to speak to different children. ‘That is what we do to our freshmen.’ They might have an underlying tradition there that they should nip within the bud.”

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