Garfield parent calls for tougher hazing policies: "A child is going to die"

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on January 8, 2014 at 11:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 8 at 11:52 PM

SEATTLE -- It's been more than three months since a hazing incident was uncovered at Garfield High School.  Now, a concerned parent says the school board must take action, or a child is going to die.

Catherine Moore addressed leaders of Seattle Public Schools during the public comment portion of Wednesday's meeting.

She says her 14-year-old son was among those hazed and harassed by classmates back in September.  Nearly a hundred students are believed to have participated in the hazing event.

"He was put put in a car with four drunk seniors, taken to someones private home, supplied copious amounts of alcohol," she recalled.  "He was drawn on, had egg broken over his head, had a diaper put on him, and was paraded around for the amusement of hundreds of young adults."

It is not a story she wants to re-live, but Moore says she's tired of waiting for district leaders to take action. 

She says her son blacked out during the incident, and would've been left unconscious in the arboretum if another hazing victim hadn't found him and helped him. 

Moore says she's met with Superintendent Jose Banda and has asked him to toughen up the district's hazing policy, but nothing has been done.  That's why she chose to speak out at Wednesday's meeting.

"I have asked they change district policy to provide that when this kind of incident happens, a school be put on temporary probation," she said.  "Those sort of extracurricular activities like homecoming and dances be suspended, until the school can guarantee the safety of the children.  If this does not happen, a child is going to die."

Her plea did not seem to fall on deaf ears.  Several board members responded publicly to her comments, apologizing for what happened and saying it's time to re-evaluate the district's policy on hazing.

A few other board members pulled her aside during a break in the meeting, to continue the conversation.

"Well, they responded as human beings and as parents, to recognize the trauma that this event caused my son and my family," she said.

Still, for Moore, this is truly a situation where actions speak louder than words.

KING 5 spoke to Superintendent Jose Banda after the meeting, and asked him about Moore's call to action.

Banda said that there is already a hazing policy on the books, but admits it may be time to take a second look at it.  He said he could not make any promises that changes would be made, because that's something the board must decide as a whole.

He also pointed out that a policy that would punish an entire school for the actions of a few students might not be fair to those students that didn't take part in the hazing incident.

Moore says she'll keep pushing for change, no matter how long it takes.

"Sometimes it takes drastic action, to change ingrained cultural  attitudes, and that's why the policy needs to be changed," she said.

Moore said the principal at Garfield High School has been incredible throughout the ordeal and has done everything he can to discipline students.

In order to end hazing that's been taking place for decades, though, she feels he needs the support of district leaders.

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