Garfield High student sues school district over hazing suspension

SEATTLE --  In late September, more than 100 Garfield High School students were busted in the Seattle Arboretum for allegedly hazing or “froshing” freshmen.

The students were reportedly coercing younger teens to drink, then paddling them and pouring hot sauce in their faces.  In early October, after a police investigation, the school suspended 10 students.  Now one  is suing Seattle Public Schools in federal court.

garfieldCourt documents describe the “froshing” as a 40-year tradition at Garfield High School, where senior students invite freshmen to drink alcohol, play games, spank them and cover them in things like baby powder and shaving cream.

Mia Doces, who works with a group that trains school districts on anti-bullying policies, says this behavior is an extreme form of peer pressure for both younger and older students.

“They really want to fit in.  They’re nervous and, if no one has talked to them about how this kind of behavior is not OK and, in many cases it’s illegal, then they’re just thinking it is part of a tradition and they should go along with it, “said Doces.

Doces is also disturbed by the lawsuit filed by one of the suspended students.  That child and his parents say the district did not follow proper disciplinary protocol after the “froshing” incident.

Documents show the principal first expelled the 16-year-old, and allegedly did not hold a hearing with him and his parents before that decision.  The student is described as an athlete with a 3.1 GPA with no prior behavioral problems at school, and his parents say the 11-day suspension he ultimately received “denied him his fundamental rights to education, and that he has and will suffer pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress” and could lose educational opportunities in the future.

Anti-bullying experts say this lawsuit is off base and sends the wrong message.

“As a parent, if you’re stepping in in a way that reinforces the negative behavior, that’s concerning.  We would like a parent to say ‘OK, you made a mistake and now we need to help you make restitution, make an apology, learn from that mistake and move forward and not make that mistake again'.  That’s what we’re really hoping an adult would do for a child,” said Doces.

We spoke with the attorney representing this family but he was not willing to talk with us about the lawsuit.  The Seattle School District said it could not comment.  Students we spoke with after school were unaware of the lawsuit.