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10 seniors at East are suspended over hazing

Long 'tradition' of shaving freshmen's heads is probed

Ten East High seniors were suspended Tuesday after school officials say they participated in a decades-old head-shaving hazing "tradition."

More suspensions may be coming as a school investigation unfolds, principal Bob Pliley said.

"Something such as shaving heads is a violation of the personal space of another person and we will deal with it in a serious, no-tolerance manner," Pliley said.

Last week, groups of senior boys apparently went looking for East freshmen boys to "initiate." The boys were not part of a particular athletic team or student group.

One freshman was skateboarding when a carload of seniors approached, Pliley said. The boys got out of the car, chased the boy, whom they knew, and put him in the car. They drove him to a different area and shaved his head with clippers.

Parents of two of the victims have asked police to press charges against two or three seniors allegedly involved in the hazing, Salt Lake police detective Dwayne Baird said. They have not been cited yet, Baird said.

Pliley is uncertain how widespread the hazing is. But, he notes, "a number of ninth-graders started walking around with shaved heads" in the past week. And such hazings have been going on for some 30 years at the Salt Lake school.

Good clean fun?

Hardly, one father said.

"If a person doesn't want it, it's unwanted advances on them," said the father of a boy whose head was shaved last fall at a dance. The father, who asked not to be identified, said his son came home crying in the shock his friends would do such a thing against his will.

The father talked to the offending teens about their actions. He said the teens at first thought shavings were "a rite of passage and a feeling that, 'Hey, it was done to me and I liked it . . . we acknowledge (freshmen), that they're liked, and they will be more popular after this.' "

In the latest incident, one boy who was caught, but spared from shaving, suffered neck pain, Pliley said. Parents of others are calling saying their sons don't want to come back to school.

"I don't want people to be afraid at school," Pliley said. "A lot of people (in the community) don't take this seriously. They don't realize this kind of behavior nowadays is driving violence in our schools. Hazing, in all its forms, is nothing more than bullying and it's unacceptable social behavior."

A 1993 Sky View High hazing is the subject of a federal court civil trial under way just two miles from East. Former athlete Brian Seamons was taped naked to a towel rack in a school locker room and his prom date was paraded past him. Seamons and his parents are suing the football coach and Cache County School District alleging his civil rights were violated in the way school officials dealt with the incident.

The case attracted national media attention and prompted examinations of school hazing policies around the state. Other reports of hazings in Wasatch Front schools also surfaced.

Pliley, who has headed East for two years, asked students last fall to sign a form acknowledging they understood the district's and East's zero-tolerance hazing policy. That's after he started last school year with 12 suspensions for head-shavings.

"People know we're taking it seriously, we're handling it, and they trust us," he said. "This is a great school, with great kids, great parents and awesome teachers. And we have full support of the district and the (Parent-Teacher-Student Association)."

Wednesday was the third day of trial in the Seamons case. The parents of former Sky View High School football player Brian Seamons took the stand in federal court, testifying their son had been victimized twice in 1993 — first when his teammates bound him naked to the towel rack, and again when his coach tried to force him to apologize to the team for reporting what happened.

Sky View administrators canceled the rest of the football season, and Brian Seamons finished high school in another town. His father, Sherwin Seamons, testified that Smithfield residents called their home with complaints.

"But that's not coach Snow's fault, is it?" defense attorney Dan Larsen said. Snow's attorneys say the coach never asked Brian Seamons to apologize for reporting the hazing, but tried to "mend feelings" between the teammates.


Contributing: Derek Jensen, Maria Titze.

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com