Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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That's not bullying! It's tradition!

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A big part of the problem in fighting bullying and hazing in schools, and on their sports teams, is that no one in authority can seem to agree on what bullying and hazing is. To you, mean cheerleaders stuffing another girl in a locker against her will is probably bullying. But to, say, a principal, it can be written off as a school tradition.

For example, take this incident at Elm Grove (La.) Middle School, near Shreveport.

A sixth-grade girl, Abigail Herring, said that during cheerleader tryouts, she was shoved into a locker, had trash thrown at her, and then had the door shut on her while another cheerleader stood guard for 20 minutes. Sounds a lot like bullying, right? Or hazing? Or something you probably would lose your shit over if you heard it happened to your kid? (For example, if you’re Abigail Herring’s mom, losing your shit enough to run to a local TV station so your daughter could tell her story.)

But to principal Bobby Marlow and his crack investigative team at Elm Grove Middle School, what happened to Abigail Herring was not bullying. From KSLA-TV in Shreveport:

He told us the school’s resource officer completed a thorough investigation, “and what bullying would be is when somebody is repeatedly affected in a negative way by someone.”

Marlow described what happened to Abigail Herring as an unofficial tradition he knew nothing about.  “Evidently, it had gone on for several years where a girl would get in a locker for good luck on the tryouts.”

So let’s see if I get Marlow straight. If we were in school together, and I shoved a broomstick up his ass once, that’s not bullying, because I wouldn’t be repeatedly affecting him in a negative way, right? Now, if I did it twice, that’s wrong. But once, OK.

And, if shoving a broomstick up someone’s ass was an “unofficial tradition” for “good luck,” I’m even more off the hook, right? “Hey, meat! Bend over for good luck! It’s an unofficial tradition! That we’ll only do once!”

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Why do we stuff you in a locker? Tradition!

To be fair to Marlow, plenty of parents, administrators and prosecutors somehow excuse bullying behavior they would never tolerate otherwise as long as it involves kids and sports. It’s this kind of twisting of logic that leads many of us to the conclusion that  waterboarding isn’t torture, at least when our side is doing it.

And in these cases of bullying and hazing involving kids in sports, the bullying is coming from people who are supposed to be part of the same team! On what planet can you, say, interview for a job and be told that before you can be part of the company, you have to participate in some “unofficial tradition” that involves your abject humiliation? You know, to prove yourself worthy. One of us.

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Gobble, gobble, we accept her.

For the record, Marlow says the “unofficial tradition” of stuffing prospective cheerleaders in a locker is over. At least that tradition. Oh, and apparently the good-luck charm didn’t work, because Abigail didn’t make the squad.

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