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Lincoln addresses the problems of hazing

by Liping Huang

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In September, a hazing incident between a junior varsity and a senior varsity footballer  was brought to light at Lincoln High School. The extreme situation was handled by the deans office and the football coaches.


Although school officials weren’t able to comment on the details of the situation, as discussion of information can jeopardize the safety and privacy of students involved, the incident did open up discussion on how the school handles such incidents.


News of the incident paralleled with the recent scandal involving a Florida football team.


During early November, a football guard from the Miami Dolphins named Richie Incognito was reported on by ESPN for his alleged role in bullying newcomer Jonathan Martin.


According to the “Sun Sentinel,” Incognito was asked to toughen up the rookie after he missed two days of the team’s voluntary workout program.  


Martin, an offensive tackle for the team, was allegedly forced to provide $15,000 to finance a trip to Las Vegas by a group of Dolphins.


In addition to that, “CBS Sports” reported that Martin received racially charged and disturbing voicemails and texts from Incognito.


According to the “The Miami Herald,” after hearing one of the graphic voicemails left by Incognito, the Dolphins suspended Incognito. They also intended to cut ties with him.


The recent events between Incognito and Martin brought up a topic that many professional and school sports teams have to deal with: the prevalence of hazing and how to deal it.


"There was hazing when I was there,” says TJ Jones, an ex-footballer of Lincoln’s football team from last year. “It just wasn't with me, but it was part of the football tradition; it happens at every school."     


Although Jones was not a victim of hazing during his time in football, he saw it happen.


Senior varsity placekicker Igor Davidovich shed light into what goes on around the football team. “We show unnecessary roughness but in a playful manner. Like other people would be like 'woah man, that's not cool,' but to us that's normal; it's guy stuff.”


He adds, “We yell at each other, and we use that as a way to... I don't really know how to explain it though. It's unnecessary roughness but it really works [to build camaraderie].”


     Davidovich stated that, compared to the rough mentality in the football fields, the recent incident in school was much different. “People just let it escalate. Everyone was over there, but nobody was willing to stop it or anything ‘cause we didn't know what was about to happen,” recalls Davidovich. “There hasn't been anything like this; it's just this one incident. It wasn't meant to be what had happened.”


     Lincoln’s football coach Philip Ferrigno shared his reaction. “I never heard anything about anybody hazing each other in my program.  I’ve heard of them throwing each other in the shower; that’s just different from hazing.”

 

     In response to the roughhousing in the showers after a game or practice, Ferrigno said, “We had to make sure that there was always somebody there, at all times, just to make sure they are supervised.” The changes to policies were acknowledged by school administrators.

 
Principal Payne gave more information about the changes in an email. He said, “The football coaches have attempted to build a program in which student-athletes are trusted to supervise themselves at times when coaches are engaged in the many activities that come with the job."

 
"For the most part, players have risen to this expectation."


Payne stated, "Football coaches in particular have an usually large supervision area that at times may include over 50 athletes who arrive at practice at various times, need to completely change clothes, then report to two different athletic fields."


He continued, "In the aftermath of this particular allegation, coaches now supervise the locker room full time.”


Coach Ferrigno emphasized, “I'm anti-bullying; I'm anti-hazing, all that stuff. I hate it. I think it's ridiculous. Our program thinks it's ridiculous. We totally do not condone any type of hazing.”


He says, “We don't condone that, and we took remedies to make sure that doesn't happen again. We've taken care of it as a staff; we've taken care of it as a school.”


Ferrigno continued, talking about what coaches do in these types of situations.  “[We] tell [students] that that's not what we want to do. We make sure they educate themselves to know that that's not how we do things. We want to accommodate each other and welcome each other into the program.”


He maintained, “Bullying, hazing-- no, these guys were messing around. Kids fourteen to sixteen to seventeen years old... they're going to screw around.”


“Hazing is guys coming in and doing a ritualistic thing,” Ferrigno points out. “Like, ‘I’m going to shave your head,’ or Freshmen Friday. That’s hazing.”


Ferrigno continued, “[Messing] around is something different.”


     Regarding the hazing situation between professional footballers Incognito and Martin, Ferrigno said, “This knucklehead [referring to Incognito] took it too far. And supposedly, some coaches were telling him to do this.”


     He continued, “It’s kind of surprising that that would happen. You know, they’re all adults.Why wasn’t [the Dolphin’s hazing] addressed earlier?”
In a situation like the Dolphin’s hazing, Ferrigno said, “I would try and foster a relationship and make sure we all respect each other. I understand there is going to be kidding, [but] once it goes too far I need to know about it.” He adds,  “Then I need to address the kid who’s doing the kidding or whatever it is.”  


     Ferrigno continues, saying, “I would talk to the kid who this is happening to and see if [the kid and the kidder] have come to a solution or if it’s still happening.” He then states, “If it’s still happening, like the guy’s a bully, I’d probably get rid of him.”       “You don’t really have a team if a guy is [bullying]. They’re not really buying into what [being a team is].” He explains,  “We try to have high standards on and off the field. That means keeping your grades up in the offseason, playing in other sports, and trying to be a good citizen.”


     On the condition of the team’s togetherness, Ferrigno says, “The team’s close; they have a brotherhood. It’s always tested constantly, because every week’s different. We have to make sure they’re ready for that as a person out in life. I think [football] keeps them coming to school.”
Ferrigno concluded, “It's just hard, you know. These young guys don't really want to do the right thing. We have a thing about integrity; it's about doing the right thing when nobody is around.”


     Dean Joel Balzer explains how the school handles bullying or hazing, "There [is a varying] amount of latitude in terms of how any incident is handled. Normally the classroom teacher or coach handles the incident within the context of the classroom or team while informing the parent."
Balzer adds, "Of course it depends on how serious the hazing is. Is the hazing putting whipped cream on someone's locker, or is the hazing really designed to humiliate somebody? A lot of it is going to vary from kid to kid."


     Balzer goes on to explain the different sides to how a hazing situation is dealt with.  "Hazing is harassment in the context of a class or club or team." Adding on, "When it becomes a deans office issue is when the person feels humiliated and singled out or if it's physically hurtful."
Assistant principal Sharimar Balisi and dean Debra Lee couldn’t confirm nor deny that an incident took place, but they were able to give detail into how serious violations could be handled.


     In harsh situations like hazing, Balisi explains, “Mild infractions go to the counselors. Incidents like these go to the dean.”
Balisi continues, “We hold a conference with both parties to get both sides of the stories. The deans [and administrators] deal with it, and parents are involved; It’s a conference involving everyone.”


     She later adds, “Then we do suspension and restorative practice. And at times, if [victim’s parents] want to press charges, the San Francisco Police Department is contacted.” She was unable to state whether or not charges were pressed in this case.


     In regard to the different reactions of students, Balzer says, "Some kids would take it in good stride and say, 'Okay I'm initiated now, and I'm part of the club.' But it becomes bad when there's no adult supervision or when someone gets physically or mentally hurt. One person’s hazing could be another person's good time. I don't know where to draw the line."  


The Lincoln Log was unable to reach the accused or victim of the incident for an interview.

 

District supervisor addresses student issues

by Christine Ong

 

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Outer Sunset District Supervisor Katy Tang visited Lincoln on Monday, October 21. A discussion with her was held in the library during lunch, and students could attend the discussion to ask her questions or listen in. 

 

Tang also visited classrooms to discuss issues, answer questions or address concerns students had in select categories: children and families, public transportation, land use, safety and economic development.

 

The Journalism class held a press conference for Tang, and the students asked her questions about their concerns. The conference started with the issue of land ownership due to a question Serina Fang, one of the editors-in-chief of the Lincoln Log asked. 

 

Fang inquired about an empty lot on Noriega that she and her friends wanted to turn into an urban garden but could not because of the private ownership of the lot. Tang replied that the city of San Francisco could not open the lot for development because of its private ownership, but the city can try to work with the owner to take advantage of development opportunities.

 

Other issues included land use and and transportation. Tang informed the Lincoln Log staff that overcrowding of MUNI (municipal transport) buses is due to maintenance issues with the buses. The main causes are a lack of buses and the buses’ old age. The buses were purchased at the same time, so they are all breaking down in the same period of time. 

 

A survey is available for the public to submit their opinions on the five issues being addressed by Tang and is available at sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=14943

 

Tang is available at katy.tang@sfgov.org and Ashley Summers, one of Tang’s staff members, is available at ashley.summers@sfgov.org for internships or volunteering in Tang’s office.