The implicit threat of bad things happening if a child reveals to his parents that something happened is the stuff of sick pedophiles. Or teachers and school administrators. Via the Bangor Daily News:
South Portland’s superintendent and athletic director told CBS 13 yesterday afternoon that the entire South Portland High School Red Riots football team, rather than practice for tonight’s game against Sanford, were instead taken to a lecture hall, where they were questioned individually by the principal, athletic director and other administrators.
Athletic director Todd Livingston would not say the nature of the questioning, or what, if anything, they may have learned.
Word is that there was an incident of hazing, “where younger players on the team were asked by older ones to take substances.” Certainly, that’s a matter of serious concern, and the school officials can hardly be faulted for taking it seriously and investigating whether, and what, happened.
The Portland Press Herald reports that, according to two parents, students were held in the gym for nearly five hours, where they were questioned about reports of pills in the locker room.
They were also ordered to turn over their cellphones.
Five hours seems to be a rather lengthy period of time to hold high school students, and stripping them of cellphones appears to be designed to prevent the students from communicating with the outside world, or receiving outside communications. From, say, their parents.
As this was conducted by school officials, rather than law enforcement, it would appear that it didn’t implicate a duty to have a parent present for questioning, but then the school officials took their actions to an unexpected place:
They went on to say students were warned not to talk about the meeting or the line of questioning and that if they did, they were told they could be expelled.
And here, a line is crossed that should not, that cannot, be, whether by a school, law enforcement or anyone else. By what authority does a coach, a principal, threaten a student with expulsion for telling his parent that he was subject to questioning, to interrogation, in school? Indeed, the cops were quick to note that they had nothing to do with this.
South Portland police say they are not a part of this, that it is solely a school investigation.
So these are the people entrusted with the care of children, and they’re taking a page out of the pedophile playbook to try to keep the parents of students in their care from learning of a five hour interrogation.
There is no information provided as to how or why the school thought that younger players were offered pills by older players, and how that might constitute hazing. But assuming, arguendo, that there was a credible basis for the belief, it would be incumbent on school officials to act upon it, to ascertain whether something of this sort happened, and to put an stop to it.
For this, the school’s actions are laudable. But how they conduct an investigation is another matter. Holding students in custody, deliberately depriving them of the opportunity to reach out to their parents, is itself a deeply troubling concept. While school officials often think very highly of the importance of their own control over students, they remain children and parents remain in control of their children’s lives. If a child is subject to interrogation, there is no circumstances where the child should be denied access to his parent.
But the final blow, the threat that if they even reveal that this interrogation, these five hours of custody, isolated from their parents, is disclosed to parents, they would be expelled, is beyond comprehension.
Initially, there is no conceivable legitimate justification for such a threat by school officials. They are not entitled to secrecy, to engaging in conduct relative to their students that no parent should ever know about. Whether their motive was to conceal the possibility of hazing from parents so as not to unnecessarily worry them if the rumor turned out to be unsubstantiated, or to conceal that their children were held for five hours for interrogation, isn’t clear. It doesn’t matter why.
As it turned out, one student was ultimately suspended for involvement in this “hazing” incident. Of the two parents whose children told them what happened despite the threat, very different reactions followed:
One parent was upset about how the situation was handled, not necessarily because school officials were asking about drugs, but because the students had to turn over their cellphones and he couldn’t reach his son for several hours.
The other felt differently:
The other parent had no problem with how the school dealt with the issue.
“I think we coddle these kids and are afraid to intimidate them,” she said. “I hope they were intimidated.”
It’s a very different thing to “coddle” children than have school officials “intimidate” children during a secret custodial interrogation. Clearly, the second parent found no cause for concern by the school officials’ actions, including the threat of expulsion if they reveal that it happened.
Ironically, the second parent’s child did disclose the interrogation, despite having been threatened, and the parent fully supported the school officials’ conduct. Which leaves open the question of whether the second parent beat their child to a pulp for revealing the school’s secret to her. After all, she wouldn’t want to coddle her own child.