Damascus incident sparks discourse about hazing prevention in the community

After a hazing display that resulted in the arrest of five Damascus High School JV football players, the conversation about hazing has opened up and schools are placing renewed emphasis on.

At Damascus, four students have been charged with first-degree rape after a hazing incident occurred in a locker room before practice. The suspects were members of the JV football team and are now being charged as adults.

The hazing incident included the use of broomsticks and was regarded as a tradition of the football team. Once administration at Damascus was notified, the scheduled November 1  game against Sherwood was canceled and the authorities were called.

In an attempt to reach out to all 25 high schools of MCPS, Superintendent Jack Smith is reinforcing RAISE values which emphasize promoting respect and integrity in the athletic departments of all schools. This renewed emphasis on county hazing regulations requires yearly education for students and coaches to deal with and prevent hazing.

Within each school, new supervision practices like locking up the locker rooms once students are done changing for practice, will be placed for all after-school activities. Since supervisors and adults are limited, students are required to be the eyes and ears of the adults in charge.

Student-athletes are expected to follow and represent the school core values of Sportsmanship and Equity. Those who participate in any hazing, bullying, or harassment will be disciplined through the removal of the team, suspension, or expulsion depending on the severity of the situation.  

Although Blake has never had any reported incidents of hazing, the incident at Damascus has prompted the athletic department to require coaches and athletes in all seasons to address regulations and concerns about student safety. “We are constantly striving to educate students on the definition of hazing as well as how to prevent future issues,” says athletic director Jared Fribush.

During the meeting with fall sports athletes, Fribush encouraged athletes to report any incidents of hazing, intimidation or bullying. Fribush stressed that athletes reporting these incidents are one of the most effective methods in handling situations like this.

Mr. Fribush also encouraged teams to establish their own team core values. “It’s important to defend my teammates,” says senior varsity football captain Max Tempchin. “I want them to know that I have their backs. Trust is very important in sports…if there was a situation like that I would step in and defend my teammate.”

In addition to schools and coaches providing instruction to prevent hazing, it’s important that team culture adjusts to communicate issues within the team, ensuring student safety. Mr. Fribush, furthermore, emphasizes the necessity of team mentorship program such as a “big brother/sister” system.