Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/9/2009 (4632 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Fear has replaced the elation of going to a new school for many new students at River East Collegiate.
It's the fear that some time, whether it's while walking home for lunch, or while leaving the school in the late afternoon, a vehicle will suddenly screech to a halt near them and older, bigger youth will tumble out, giving the order to bend over to be repeatedly assaulted with a hockey stick.
Or instead of a hockey stick, something liquid is thrown at them from a passing vehicle.
The penalty if the victims flee? They're threatened they'll be hunted down the next day or in the future.
Dennis Pottage, the superintendent of River East Transcona School Division, told the Free Press on Thursday students were also sprayed with water.
But that's not what several parents of River East students say happened. They said the liquid of choice was actually bleach, vinegar or pickle juice.
One male student, who was paddled several times this week, said the abuse is different depending on gender. The Free Press has agreed not to use names that would identify the victims.
"The girls get sprayed and the guys get paddled," he said on Friday.
"But it doesn't matter who you are. You are targeted. I didn't like it, but it has always happened at this school. I knew it would happen before it happened."
At River East, known as the home of the Kodiaks, the abuse is called being "freshied." Across North America it is called hazing.
But, in a growing number of places, it's being called a crime, usually assault or assault with a weapon. Just this week, two 17-year-old Burlington, Ont., high school students were charged with assault with a weapon for hitting Grade 9 students with paddles.
One mother of a new student at River East said the hazing there was "seriously out of hand.
"If I would have known that River East was famous for this, I would have seriously placed (the student) in a different school," she said on Friday.
"This is 2009 and this should not be happening."
Pottage, who could not be reached for comment on Friday, said on Thursday five students had already been suspended for five days for taking part in the hazing, and more could follow as its investigation continued.
But it didn't appear the suspensions -- or the resulting media publicity -- had stopped the hazing.
A parent who called the Free Press on Friday said their child saw two senior students jump out of a van during the noon hour and, armed with a paddle, strike a child on the buttocks.
Another parent said a car full of boys followed a school bus and paddled the boys in their own driveway when they got off.
And because of geography, the hazing isn't just a River East problem.
Students at Chief Peguis Junior High School, located next to the high school, have also been targeted.
A mother said a number of Grade 9 students were hazed on Wednesday.
"My daughter got vinegar in her eyes from one of the squirt guns the girls were using," she said, adding another girl had bleach used on her.
One parent said the problem stems from having the Grade 10 students show up for school on Wednesday while the senior grades don't begin classes until Thursday.
"The grade 11 and 12 students have nothing to do but drive around looking for kids to abuse," the parent said.
"If they were at school, it would help."
All of the parents who contacted the Free Press agreed if division officials are serious about ending hazing, punishment should be more than five-day suspensions. They noted other school divisions had harsher penalties, including Louis Riel School Division, which gives six-week suspensions for hazing.
"One week is just not enough to deter these girls from doing it again," a mother said.
But they also wondered where the Winnipeg police are.
"It would stop if they were charged," said the father of one child who received several strokes from a paddle.
A Winnipeg police spokeswoman was unable to say whether officers are involved and investigating or if any of the victims have complained to police.
Anger and disbelief
HERE'S a sample of what other parents of the River East Collegiate students victimized by hazing were telling the Free Press on Friday. The Free Press has agreed not to use their names so their children aren't victimized further:
"I can't believe kids still do this -- this isn't 1920. Kids should know not to do this by now," a father said.
"I am not sure (my child will go to the school) after reading the article," another parent said. "This is abusive behaviour... . A Grade 10 student could be squirted with Javex more than once or beaten with a paddle more than once. It's a free-for-all. Those kids must be petrified to go to school."
"The students that get hazed are so scared to even mention it because they feel that they will get it worse," a mother said.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.