Seattle police are investigating the latest in what district officials say has become a “tradition” of hazing at Garfield High School.
Around 100 students were gathered at the Arboretum, where students were being “paddled, had on diapers, eggs were being thrown at students and shoe polish was all over their body,” during the most recent incident Friday afternoon, according to the school’s principal, Ted Howard.
Howard and the school’s resource police officer broke up the gathering after it was reported to them, and the students shouted profanities. One student called Howard a racial slur, and many used other derogatory names as they ran away, he said in an email to parents.
A police report would not be released Tuesday, Police spokeswoman Renee Witt said, because students have been intimidated by their upperclassmen into not cooperating with investigators when reports have been publicized in the past.
“This happens each year with these juniors and the seniors,” Witt said. “When officers try to investigate, [the students] get peer pressured into dropping the case. They’re trying to get these victims to follow through.”
It’s not clear how many students were subject to the hazing or whether any students have been punished so far. The school’s website says hazing is not tolerated, will result in suspension and “will be considered criminal offenses and treated as such.”
“It’s a tradition,” District spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said. “It’s been going on for many years.”
She added that she’d spoken with Howard about how the school plans to deal with the incident.
Here’s the letter Howard sent Friday to Garfield parents:
Do you know where your son or daughter is at tonight? I spent the afternoon with Officer Radford and many other officers walking through the Arboretum. One hundred or more Garfield students were participating in hazing incidents, drinking hard alcohol and beer. Students were being paddled, had on diapers, eggs were being thrown at students and shoe polish was all over their body. As students ran and scattered from the scene they caused at least one, maybe more car accidents due to running in front of cars. I was also called a (racial slur) by a student and many other derogatory names.
As I email you tonight I asked the question do you know where your son or daughter is at? I ask that question because I want you to know that we all have a responsibility to keep our kids safe. We all work hard to make sure they learn life lessons and make better decisions. Tonight some of our students didn’t make good decisions. If students were there to watch, cause harm to another student or behave inappropriately this impacts the entire GHS community and puts the GHS community in a negative light.
I am asked every year how we will address hazing. Every year we work really hard to teach our students about respect, how to honor each other’s cultures, and to have empathy. I am asking you tonight to continue that conversation with your son or daughter. We are a community, a community that grows together and learns together. Please have a conversation with your son and daughter about decisions, how they can and will impact people’s lives.
Thank you for your time.
Principal Garfield HS