STREETSBORO, Ohio - Was there or wasn’t there hazing at the Streetsboro Marching Rockets High School band camp?
Many students say no, but administrators are moving forward with the investigation; leading to several heated exchanges at Wednesday nights school board meeting in Streetsboro.
It was standing room only inside the cafeteria at Defer Intermediate as about 200 upset parents and band members waited to learn more about the “hazing” investigation and the status of the band.
The program was suspended and both the band director and assistant director placed on paid administrative after the allegations were filed in a formal complaint.
School Board President John Kelly addressed the crowd saying that they had conducted interviews which confirmed that activities that could be categorized as hazing had taken place.
The claims include students being haphazardly thrown into a lake, wrapped with saran wrap and demeaned during skits.
But multiple students who spoke at the meeting emphatically denied the allegations and said absolutely no plastic wrap was ever used on anyone and everything that happened was only with a persons consent and only in the presence of adult chaperones; including an EMT and nurse.
“All were were asked if they able to swim regardless of how deep the water ,” said a female band member, “All students were also given the choice not be mentioned in skits and if a student didn’t want to be mentioned, they were not mentioned.”
The investigation is on going but in the meantime the board hired an interim band director. The superintendent says he hopes the band will be able to resume practicing as soon as Thursday and be ready in time for the first football game next week.
Statement by Streetsboro City School Board President, John Kelly:
• To date almost a dozen interviews have taken place.
• The interviews credibly confirm that incidents that could be characterized as hazing took place at the 2016 Band Camp and likely occurred during previous band camps. Any amount of hazing would constitute a violation of board policy.
• Interviews have revealed that both this year and last year, upper classmen who characterize the conduct as “good fun” or
“team building,” admit that some of theconduct got “out of hand.”
• This investigation will continue and changes will be made to ensure this type of conduct does not recur.
In closing, I want to say that your perspective as parents on this investigation depends on where you stand. If your child was part of the “in crowd” that relished in the behavior and looked with fondness toward the day when, as seniors, they would ascend to the position of “power,” as one social media commentator noted, then you are probably prepared to rail against our Superintendent’s actions in trying to get to the bottom of this matter. You will try to dismiss this as “good clean fun” and “rite of passage” stuff that builds character. Before you start down that road, I will tell you your perspective will stand in significant contrast to the parents of the children who felt frightened and intimidated by this conduct and went so far as to quit band because of it. Over the past two years 14 students have quit band. That is worth noting and a serious concern to this Board. There has been much said in the media about students being swim tested and wrist banded before participating in the lake toss. Our investigation revealed that a student without a wrist band who couldn't swim was pushed in after the student told the senior they could not swim. As adults we know that there are lots of different kids walking through our hallways. Confident kids with strong self-esteem and less confident kids struggling to find their place in our halls. This Board of Education, our Superintendent, Administrators, Teachers and staff are responsible for the safety of all of these children and we take this responsibility seriously. So if you plan to dismiss our investigation because you think the alleged hazing was not “that bad” or just “good clean fun,” understand that your speech will not change our position that every child in our care deserves to be educated in a safe environment free from this type of activity. “Team building” and developing “esprit de corps” can and must be done without abusing power over the underclass students who deserve to be treated with respect. To those parents and former band members who insist that “this is the way it’s always been” our message should be clear. This is not the way it will be in the Streetsboro City Schools
from now on.