Photo by Max Efrein.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series about hazing and the policies local high schools have in place to deal with such incidents.
Like their counterpart in Prescott, Bradshaw Mountain and Chino Valley high schools implemented a zero-tolerance policy for student-on-student hazing before the 2017-18 academic year.
But will these administrators’ well-meaning efforts prevent students from making poor, potentially life-altering decisions?
In late April, the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office chose not to file criminal charges against two Mingus Union High School student-athletes in Cottonwood over a sexually related hazing on a team bus.
However, the Mingus Union School District Board suspended the two student-athletes 180 days for their participation in the March incident.
As a result of that district’s zero-tolerance policy, the 18-year-olds were barred from Mingus Union and the school’s online academy program. They also were not allowed to set foot on district property or to attend school events — such as games, prom and graduation — regardless of whether the events were held on or off campus.
Currently, Bradshaw Mountain administrators prefer educating all parties involved about how to prevent hazing/bullying — whether it’s through professional training of coaches or conducting meetings for parents and students — at the beginning of each academic year.
Chino Valley administrators have instituted specific proactive measures of their own to prevent hazing/bullying, although those measures are slightly different than Bradshaw Mountain’s.
What follows is a synopsis for the policies/procedures, prevention methods and punishments that Bradshaw Mountain and Chino Valley high schools installed before the 2017-18 academic year to combat hazing and bullying, including on buses.
Policies/procedures: The district has a zero-tolerance policy toward cyber bullying and bullying, which it defines as “a student or group of students engaging in any form of behavior that includes such acts as intimidation or harassment” with the intention of physically harming another student or students and/or their property. The harassment may be verbal, written or “exposed graphically,” the policy says.
“Students are prohibited from bullying on school grounds, school property, school buses, at school bus stops, at school-sponsored events and activities, and through the use of electronic technology or electronic communication equipment on school computers, networks, forums, or mailing lists,” the district’s student conduct policy adds.
Prevention: Bradshaw Mountain athletic director Tony Miller said the schools’ coaches received Positive Coaching Alliance training for the 2017-18 academic year. At the beginning of each sports season, Miller conducts a mandatory parent meeting with coaches, in which he reviews expectations of students, parents and coaches. Coaches participate in breakout sessions and provide a Code of Ethics to all families.
“The Code of Ethics is something I go over with the coaches during their pre-season coaches meetings with me,” Miller said. “Additionally, I provide informational meetings [to them] after I attend all AIA [Arizona Interscholastic Association] state and region meetings three times per year.
“Next year, I have already prepared our professional development trainings for our coaches; we will be requiring our coaches to take four more additional classes on the NFHS [National Federation of State High School Associations] Learn website.”
Bradshaw Mountain operates a Silent Witness program to prevent hazing and bullying, among other things. Students report incidents by calling 928-759-4127 or anonymously telling Dean of Students Rick Bradshaw, School Resource Officer Tyler Brown, or any teacher, counselor, nurse or security guard. Cash rewards are available.
Bus/music policy: Miller said coaches enforce decorum. “For safety reasons on our buses we don’t allow the students to play super-loud music,” he added. “This could distract a bus driver, and we wouldn’t want to put anyone in that position. Students are allowed to listen to personal devices via ear buds.”
On school bus trips, Miller said the school doesn’t have a specific policy in writing. However, coaches sit with their respective teams.
“For example, the varsity coaches sit with the varsity team and the freshman coaches sit with the freshman team,” Miller added. “Also, all of our buses are equipped with cameras so we can keep an eye on our students.”
Bradshaw Mountain baseball player Timmy Young said he and his teammates “all got along very well” this spring. Players would jab at and joke with each other, but they hung out as friends.
“We never took it that far as hazing anyone,” Young added. “It was a short, little ‘ha-ha’ joke here or something like that.”
Young said coaches typically sat toward the front of the bus on road trips, and each player got his own row to sit in. Players would nap and play games in the back, while coaches game-planned, he added.
“It worked out well for us,” he said. “I don’t think anybody on the team had it out for anyone else on the team. We were a close-knit group; pretty close friends across the board.”
Added veteran Bradshaw Mountain assistant baseball coach Dino Irwin about bus trips, “We engage with our kids. Our coaching staff does not ride in the front with no clue of what is going on in the back. Coaches consistently walk back and do performance evaluations and/or pep talks with individuals or small groups at all times. Our bus rides are never loud or obnoxious. We keep it calm and focused.”
Irwin added that at the beginning of each season, he and coach Brian Bundrick distribute code of conduct pamphlets that every player and parent must sign.
“It deals with grades, attitudes, behavior, hazing, etcetera — it is zero tolerance,” Irwin said. “We make it clear to parents and players that behavior problems will never be an issue on one of our teams because if an issue arises, they will no longer be on our team.”
Punishment: Humboldt Unified School District’s K-12 Discipline Matrix in its Student/Parent Handbook says students who commit assault, aggravated assault, sexual harassment (with or without physical contact), hazing, bullying, threats or intimidation may receive an in- or out-of-school suspension, expulsion, work detail, a discipline hearing or a police referral.
The district reserves the right to notify the police when district officials “have a reasonable belief that an incidence of bullying is a violation of the law,” which could result in prosecution.
Policies/procedures: Chino Valley Unified School District has a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying/hazing. Chino Valley High’s student handbook says the school is “proactive in prevention” and “awareness” and conducts “interventions” to stop it. “Reporting by students and parent/guardians can be confidential, and there is a process of documentation, investigation, and disciplinary procedures for verified incidences of harassment, intimidation and bullying,” the handbook adds.
Junior baseball player Mike Paulus said, “In Chino, we really just try to stick together and hang out, and just try to do things together as a team so that stuff doesn’t happen.”
Paulus and his teammates go to the movies, fish and play miniature golf. Most of the players have known one another since they were 8.
“We joke around with each other and stuff, but we know when the limit is,” Paulus added. “We know when we need to stop, if it’s too much.”
Fourth-year baseball coach Mark Middleton said he would immediately expel a bully from his team if an incident “was proven and there’s no doubt.”
“There’s just no room for it on our ball club,” said Middleton, adding that he hasn’t seen bullying/hazing in his tenure. “I don’t want them playing for us. I don’t care how good the player is. It doesn’t build team unity.”
Players are known to rib each other, “but it’s never, ever gotten out of hand to where somebody feels uncomfortable or has been brought to my attention that they feel uncomfortable,” the coach added.
Prevention: Students who believe they are being bullied/hazed or suspect another student is being bullied/hazed should report their concern to the counseling department or the security officer, school counselor Marty Campitelli said. There’s currently no tip line.
School personnel, the handbook says, are “to maintain appropriate confidentiality of the reported information. Reprisal by any student directed toward a student or employee related to the reporting of a case or a suspected case of bullying shall not be tolerated, and the individual(s) will be subject to discipline.”
Middleton said administrators keep an open-door policy for coaches to report hazing/bullying incidents, which are “handled immediately.”
Bus/music policy: Chino Valley High’s transportation policy says riding a bus is “a privilege that can be denied if an individual chooses to put the safety of others at risk.” This includes “items causing a safety distraction,” such as cell phones, trading cards and music-playing devices, which “may be taken from the student and can be picked up by a parent at the transportation facility.”
Campitelli, who will replace Pete Jelovic as athletic director July 1, said school district bus drivers are watchful and that no coaches tolerate hazing.
“As a coach, I have not come across it with baseball, but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen,” Campitelli said of students’ hazing. “They get really good at hiding some stuff sometimes.”
Middleton said he and his coaches spread out on the bus only when baseball and softball players ride together, which happens about a third of the time on road trips. Softball coaches sit between the boys and the girls, who can’t intermingle.
Punishment: The student handbook says students who bully/haze will be disciplined “up to and including suspension or expulsion from school,” and police “will be notified” when district officials reasonably believe “that an incidence of bullying” violates the law.
“It is something we take seriously, and if we can prove it, we will push it as far as we can as far as discipline,” Campitelli added.
“Hazing’s not limited to face-to-face — we get that stuff online and social media plays a huge part in that. We’ve been pretty diligent on that front, too, making sure that we get approved screenshots. Once we have that, we’ll take it all the way to in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension. I don’t know if we’ve had anyone expelled over it, but there have been some suspensions.”
Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at email@example.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.