Members of the drum section of the Glenn Hills High School band have apparently been hazing rookie members for years, but this was the first year they were caught, according to a two-page student tribunal hearing report.
The tribunal report states "a band specific punishment and probation would send a strong message to future band members that initiation rites are over and in the future will be treated very strictly by the school district."
The Richmond County Code of Student Conduct and Discipline prohibits any form of initiation.
Nine students have been suspended for 10 days and placed on probation for the next year and a half by Richmond County Board of Education officials, according to the report.
The report concludes the Richmond County Board of Education's investigation into a hazing incident that took place while the band was on a field trip to Florida last month.
The band traveled to St. Petersburg, Fla., on Jan. 14. At the hotel the next morning, sometime between 8 and 10 a.m., each rookie member of the drum section was struck in the buttocks with a paddle by one or more of the veteran members.
One of the students received a bruise of 10-12 inches in diameter and received medical attention at an Augusta hospital after the band's return from Florida.
The father of that student, Timothy Brown, has filed a lawsuit against the school department. He is not seeking any money, saying he just wants his son transferred to another area high school. School officials have not indicated how they will respond to the transfer request.
Dr. Charles Larke, the Richmond County superintendent of schools, could not be reached for comment on the lawsuit Monday.
It was on the same trip that seven other band members were caught in an unrelated incident involving sexual activity prohibited by the school department's code of student conduct. Four of those students were sent to the Alternative School for the remainder of the year. The other three were allowed to return to Glenn Hills High.
Of the 11 students involved in the hazing incident and called before the student tribunal Jan. 30, two agreed to testify as witnesses. All of the students answered questions regarding the incident and as the hearing progressed, the report states, all of the parties admitted there had been an initiation.
The student tribunal is made up of three retired educators to serve as an impartial court and determine guilt or innocence and punishment for students.
The tribunal determined, after hearing all the evidence, that the two students who agreed to testify as witnesses to the event were involved in the planning of the hazing and were present when the incident occurred, but did not strike anyone.
Accordingly, the two witnesses were excused from the hearing. Their 10-day suspensions were expunged, and the students are being permitted to make up schoolwork with no suspension appearing on their discipline record.
The other nine students charged in the hazing incident were found to be in violation of the school's code of student conduct. School officials explained to the students that hazing is a criminal offense, that it is inappropriate and that it cannot be tolerated.
The principal, Calvin Holland, recommended placing the band members in the Alternative School for the remainder of the semester.
But the tribunal chose to suspend the students from school for 10 days and prohibit them from engaging for the remainder of the year in any nonacademic band activities, including pep rallies, marches and parades.
The nine students also were placed on probation through the 2001-02 school year.
"The tribunal, by way of comment, realizes that the case was reported because one of the students received a hematoma of 10-12 inches in diameter," the report reads. "However, all of the students testified they were willing participants and that none of the initiation was done with any ill will or intention to hurt someone else. The tribunal could not conclude, considering all the facts and circumstances, that this group of students should have rendered harsher punishment simply because they were the first ones caught with this initiation rite, however inappropriate it is."
Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.
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