Dexter schools add new anti-hazing rules after football players suspended, charged with assault

Posted May 14, 2013, at 8:34 p.m.
Last modified May 15, 2013, at 8:36 a.m.

DEXTER, Maine — The SAD 46 board of directors have implemented new policies regarding hazing and overnight activities in the wake of several hazing incidents during a lockdown event at Dexter Regional High School last fall.

During an overnight event for the high school’s football team on Nov. 16 and 17, five hazing incidents occurred at the school. The perpetrators and victims were all minors.

After the school’s investigation, 12 students were suspended for their roles in the hazing, ranging from one to 10 days. The students were also barred from participating in competitive afterschool events for periods ranging from one week to one month. Everyone on the team also had to perform community service, which has since been completed.

Two students were charged with two counts of assault, while a third was charged with one count of assault. All charges were Class D misdemeanors. The three students were not named by police because they are minors.

Superintendent Kevin Jordan said he will make a recommendation about the two chaperones at the event — football head coach Kevin Armstrong and assistant coach Matthew Hubbell — during the June 12 board of directors meeting, when decisions for all fall sports coaches are made.

He previously said that everything from not bringing the two coaches back to bringing them back with no further sanctions has been considered. However, Jordan said on Tuesday that he has not decided yet what he will recommend to the board.

The SAD 46 board of directors decided at its May 1 meeting to accept policies regarding hazing and overnight activities.

Maine statute defines injurious hazing as “any action or situation, including harassing behaviors, which recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health of any school personnel or student enrolled at a public school.”

“[Our] hazing policy basically follows along with state law,” Jordan said on Tuesday. “We added a few points of emphasis.”

Jordan said the district’s policy expands on the definition of hazing to include harassing behaviors of any school personnel, instead of just students enrolled at the school.

“The [state’s] definition is specifically for a student enrolled at a public schools,” said Jordan. “We added that hazing could be any school personnel, not just a student.”

Other minor wording changes are made through the policy, mostly from disciplinary action “may” occur to “will” occur if someone is caught hazing another person.

“Administrators, faculty members, students, and all other employees who fail to abide by this policy will be subject to disciplinary action which may include suspension, expulsion, or other appropriate measures up to and including termination of employment,” reads the policy.

Each coach or supervisor will also be required to orally express what hazing is and have conversations about the policy, said Jordan.

“It’s usually done anyway, but now it’s in writing,” he said.

The board also accepted a policy regarding chaperones for field trips and overnight activities.

“What we’ve done is strengthened the language of overnight events,” he said. “All of them will be lockdown events with students only being dismissed to a parent or guardian prior to 7 a.m.”

Jordan said there previously wasn’t specific language as to exactly what a lockdown event was.

“If a parent called and gave permission [for their child to leave], we’d let them. At times, events would end prior to 7 a.m. There was a concern with kids being tired if up all night and driving home,” he said. “We’re just putting in writing what our expectations are.”

Students who drive must have written permission from their parents to leave and may only leave at the completion of the event, not before.

The policy also outlines how many chaperones are needed for each grade level. For elementary school, one chaperone is needed per four students; middle school is one chaperone per eight students; high school is one chaperone per 10 students. Local authorities will also be notified whenever there is an overnight event.

The policy committee considered ending all overnight activities in the district, said Jordan.

“The consensus was that we do have a lot of positive overnight activities. Rather than react and eliminate them altogether, we put some pieces in place to make them more productive,” he said.

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