DEXTER, Maine — Several parents and grandparents expressed their anger and frustration about the severity — or lack thereof — of punishments handed out to 12 Dexter Regional High School football players for their roles in an alleged hazing incident.
The SAD 46 board of directors and Superintendent Kevin Jordan listened to the parents during a scheduled meeting on Wednesday evening at Ridge View Community School.
“I don’t think it’s right or fair,” said one parent. “These kids are supposed to be role models.”
No parent wished to be identified in order to protect their children.
During an overnight gathering at the high school on Friday, Nov. 16, several upperclassmen of the football team attacked underclassmen of the team, said Jordan.
He said there were five such incidents. The first occurred at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, while the other four happened between 4:30 and 5:15 a.m. on Nov. 17. Three of the five incidents were caught on the school’s video surveillance system.
Dexter police are still investigating the incident, said Sgt. Alan Grinnell on Tuesday.
For their roles, 12 students were suspended from school and were barred from participating in competitive afterschool events.
Many of those students are now on the wrestling and basketball teams.
Four students were suspended from school for 10 days, two were suspended seven days and six were suspended for one day, said Jordan.
Those punishments weren’t severe enough, according to several parents.
“It seems like a slap on the wrist to the ringleaders,” said one parent.
The same parent said that some students were bragging about how light the punishment was.
“There were several students making jokes about how little the punishment is. It’s like getting a vacation,” said the mother.
“If any kids want 10 days off, ‘They say I can do this and I can do that, I’ll get 10 days off,’” said a grandmother during the meeting. “They need more than 10 days and no sports until spring time.”
Jordan said that some parents of suspended students told him that the suspension had been a “severe hardship on their child.”
“What about the poor kid that got beat?” one parent asked.
Another parent stated that she had heard about students thinking hazing was a joke.
“One kid punched another in the arm and said, ‘hazed,’ and walked away. That’s not funny. It’s a joke [to them] now,” she said.
Two parents gave details about what happened to their children that night.
One mother said her son had his pants pulled down while three players took turns hitting his backside with a polycarbonate bat.
“It’s not the yellow bat at Walmart,” said a parent after a meeting.
“The boy that hit my child backed up several feet and made him pull his pants down and ran six or seven feet to get more on his hit,” she said.
The boy’s grandmother said he was left with bruises.
One woman added that some of the perpetrators outweighed the victims by as much as 80 pounds.
Another mother said at the meeting that these weren’t good kids who did a bad thing, but instead carefully planned the attacks.
“It was a pattern of enjoyment to hit those who were younger and smaller than them,” said a member of the audience.
Jordan said several steps will be taken to try to curb future hazing incidents. He added that Dexter’s hazing policy already follows state law.
A student at the University of Maine will speak to grades 6-12 about his experience with hazing to the students. Other measures also are being planned, he said.
Jordan said the board would look at the possibility of no longer doing any overnight activities.
One of the parents who expressed anger over what she said were weak punishments doesn’t agree.
“The event was fine, the boys had all kinds of fun [before the incidents],” she said.
She also didn’t hold the coaches accountable.
“There’s not one parent who holds the coaching staff responsible for this,” she said. “Why would he even suspect that a few of these boys would go and do this?”
After the public discussion, the board went into executive session to discuss the events in further detail.