Hazing continues to be an issue of concern in high school athletics programs and one of the most highly litigated claims against school districts and athletic personnel. Courts typically impose liability either because of the failure to create an anti-hazing policy or for developing one which is substantively inadequate or ineffectively implemented.
In addition to inadequate policy development and implementation, increased litigation in recent years has occurred for schools failing to provide adequate and appropriate – both specific and general – supervision of student-athletes particularly in areas such as locker rooms.
Experts state that hazing is more likely to occur in locker rooms and most of the nation’s 20,000-plus high schools across the country generally do not have policies requiring locker room supervision. Rules, requirements or recommendations for adult supervision in locker rooms are typically local decisions. Schools often do not have anything in place until there is a problem – typically after a hazing incident has occurred. In many cases, lack of adult supervision may reflect administrative fear that grown-ups in the locker room could prey on children or face accusations to that effect.
Recent hazing cases, which have involved teams in unsupervised locker rooms and gained much national attention, clearly demonstrate that school officials need to take seriously the manner in which they train and require athletic coaches to supervise the locker rooms that their teams use.
Coaches have a duty to supervise all areas where there are student- athletes – on the field, in the gym, in the pool, on the bus, in areas where student-athletes gather after a practice or game and in the locker room. Increased supervision, while it might not totally eradicate hazing, would clearly help to keep student-athletes safe and obedient in their environment.
During these times of COVID-19 when locker rooms may be unused or used with limitations, it is a good time to collaborate with athletic personnel and school administration to develop and implement an adequate locker room supervision plan. In addition to creating and putting a plan in place, the following is a non-exhaustive list of tips for athletic directors and coaches to consider:
What Athletic Directors Can Do:
What Coaches Can Do:
Tips and Techniques:
Athletic directors and coaches can take a leadership role by making a commitment to change the culture of the school’s athletic program. If you can also ensure a “buy-in” and commitment from the administration and school board, you would have the catalyst needed to begin moving to the mindset of creating an environment of trust, respect and sincere concern.
National Federation of State High School Associations – www.nfhslearn.com.
Stop Hazing www.stophazing.org
Hazing Preventions www.hazingprevention.org
MCPS Athletics Supervision Action Plan https://d1dph1psyatsfa.cloudfront.net/bethesdamagazi/wpcontent/uploads/2019/03/MCPS...
ACP-C Supervision and Locker Room Plan https://s3-uswest-2.amazonaws.com/.../77/2012/03/27203309/ACP-Full-Supervision- Plan.pdf Locker Rooms: Monitoring and Supervision caha.com/safesport/docs/Quick_Reference_-_Locker_Room_Monitoring.pdf
U.S. Center for Safe Sport https://www.safesport.org
Proactive Coaching www.proactivecoaching.info
Peg Pennepacker, CAA, retired in 2017 after 36 years in public education serving 30 years as a high school athletic director. She is an NIAAA national faculty member and instructor for the four legal issues in athletics courses, one of which includes hazing in school athletics programs. She is a member of the High School Today Publications Committee, and she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-470-7101.