Voters in Mass. Back 2 in Wake of Hazing Flap

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Voters in Wilmington, Mass., last week overwhelmingly rejected the recall of two school committee members who were under attack for acknowledging publicly that high school football players had been involved in a hazing incident last summer.

Seventy-one percent of the voters cast ballots against removing Linda T. McMenimen from the school committee, while 69 percent defeated the recall of Shirley F. Callan.

Voter turnout for the special election was 33 percent, officials said.

Ms. McMenimen, a veteran school committee member who was elected last April after a six-year hiatus, said she was "elated'' by the results.

Due to the weather, which Ms. McMenimen described as frigid and blustery, "people really had to make the effort'' to go to the polls, she said. "I was very pleased and proud of my town.''

Ms. Callan was also proud of town residents. "They didn't want the recall, and they didn't want to overlook the hazing,'' said Ms. Callan, a school committee member since 1985.

Investigations by police and the principal of Wilmington High School concluded that 14 upperclassmen had participated in or witnessed the hazing of underclassmen at an overnight football camp in August 1992.

Recall organizers accused the two committee members of bringing disgrace on the community and violating their duties because they confirmed to reporters that the hazing, which reportedly included forced nudity, occurred. Recall organizers also accused them of leaking details of the hazing, which they deny. (See Education Week, Jan. 27, 1993.)

State Report Released

The Massachusetts education department concluded in a report late last month that high school and athletic-department officials in Wilmington had not complied with all of the state's requirements for notifing students about limits on hazing.

Nor did officials report the incidents of "child abuse'' to state social-services agencies as required by law, according to the report.

However, the report says, the principal's disciplinary measures--a five-day school suspension and removal from the football team--were consistent with the student handbook.

The state found the district's appeals process flawed, however. Without interviewing the high school principal, the report notes, the then-superintendent reduced the in-school suspension to three days and made the players sit out one football game.

"Given the serious nature of the hazing . . . the justification for the former superintendent's appeals decisions is unclear,'' the report says.

The report also states that the in-school counseling offered by the athletic department was inadequate, and it questions why the school committee, as the policymaking body, did not discuss the hazing.

It recommends professional-development or orientation sessions on hazing for staff members, parents, and students.

It also recommends that the high school principal be involved in all major student decisions, including athletics.

Vol. 12, Issue 20

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