Posted by: Brigitte | 2013/01/14

Emotional Impact on my child of Initiation at high school

Hi there,
I wonder if you could offer me some advice. My daughter heard about initiation last year and asked me please to find out from her high school, which she started this year, that they didn''t have initiation there. Firstly, let me emphasize that to us initiation / hazing means anything involving the kids having to do anything that would embarress or humiliate them at the amusement of other students, etc. I contacted the school and was assured that they have no initiation or hazing, but only a week of orientation, where the kids get to know the school and what''s where / when, etc. However, last week the teachers and matrics told them they would have to walk around for TWO WEEKS with a " steering wheel"  and a " licence"  and " number plate"  and they would have to walk around, either in groups, or even worse, on their own, and get signatures from other students and these students could make them do anything, such as sing, dance, wash their " car"  or such in order to get the signatures, which the teachers insist on them getting. They also have to " indicate"  when they turn a corner and such. While some people are reading this and probably cracking up, thinking this must be hilarious. It is not, trust me. My child has been traumatized since hearing of this and has been crying almost non-stop. She is extremely shy and the only person she''ll sing in front of is me, not even her dad or any other member of her family. I really think this practice is stupid and should, after all of these years, be done away with. All it does is break down a child''s confidence and embarress and humiliate them. To me, the teachers are giving other students the right to bully children. Because this is essentially bullying. All for the amusement of other students and at the expense of my child''s self-confidence. I sent a note saying that I am giving her permission to not take part if she doesn''t want to and for that reason didn''t send a " steering wheel" , " licence"  or " number plate"  with her. I really believe that the school misled me in not giving me all the information. What is happening is not orientation, it is initiation / hazing. Please can you tell me if you agree with me on the fact that this is traumatizing and embarressing and humiliating for the kids and can''t do them any good, only bad? I''d appreciate your input. Kind Regards.

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Our expert says:
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Any teacher or Head who tolerates let alone encourages hazing or initiation of any form should be sacked promptly. There is no possible excuse for it, no possible benefit for anyone, and potential significant harm to the victims of it.
The degree to which teachers apparently encourage this primitive practice in the examples you quote is disgraceful. I'd firstly approach the head and say this contradicts the assurances you were given, and is a definite breach of the basic human rights of all the children involved, encouraging bullying and other bad practices, and that unless it is immediately and permanently banned, you will approach the Human Rights Commission, the local MEC for Education and the media, to expose this thoroughly bad practice.
There is nothing whatsoever funny about such sanctioned bullying, and it fails my traditional test - if the person it's aimed at isn't spontaneously laughing with genuine and spontaneous enjoyment, then it isn't a joke.
And what I'd insist on isn't simply an exemptipon for my own child ( which could lead to further teasing and embarrassment, etc ) but a firm and final end to the pathetic practice altogether.
I disagree with Jenna on this - it is NEVER EVER beneficial to ANY child, and there is no possible justification for it.
And it is NOT "character building" a feeble excuse too often used to justify all sorts of bad practices, including bullying, bad food and compulsory sports. There isn't a shred of proper evidence of any benefits, these claims are invented to justify a process that satisfies far darker and uglier human instincts.
The mere fact that most kids survive, and SOME kids might come to enjoy it, is no justification. The only "life lesson" it teaches is that people with power are allowed to abuse it to bully people with less power, and that the embarrassment and discomfort of an individual is irrelevant even to the institution ( such as the school ) which is supposed to be protecting them. It teaches a child that she must ignore her own feelings and wishes as irrelevant, to fit in and beg acceptance from the stronger and more powerful people around her.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Anonymous | 2016/01/22

I have just been through this with my daughter, who has a very strong personality. However, after nearly two weeks, she told the two Matric girls that she cannot do it any more as her throat is sore, but was forced to. On their sports day, due to all the strenuous sit-ups etc. she could not participate as she was stiff and pulled a muscle at the top of her leg. This was not the issue. The issue is she is dropped off at school just after 06h30 and most days they had to stay on till after 20h00 in the evenings. I was called to the school to pick her up as she was ill. She was in a total state with cold fever, shivering. Get to the doctor only to be told it is stress related and that she has been pushed to her limit. Her friend, also ended up at the doctor with her lips full of fever blisters, sore throat, ears etc. only for the doctor to tell the mother it is as a result of exhaustion and bordering on burn-out. Who the HELL gives these young Matric girls the right to push our children so far? I went to the school only to be told it was her choice, then I voiced my opinion and said that it was not her choice, as she had told these Matrics she could not carry on and she was forced into it. She did not have a choice! I put this down to BULLYING and still anticipate to take this matter further. #grade8initiationmustfall

Reply to Anonymous
Posted by: TWS | 2015/10/01

No school or parent under any condition should condone initiation. It has no value whatsoever and encourages bullying, mistreatment and singling out of shy students.

Reply to TWS
Posted by: Anonymous | 2014/09/01

I went through an initiation when I started high school. It was not "good fun"; it was deliberate cruelty that the school sanctioned. It was like the school was giving the message that they would tolerate whatever abuse some students got.

Reply to Anonymous | 1 comment (hide)
Posted by: Anonymous | 2015/01/29

It's fun it brings the children together as one group

Posted by: Phil | 2013/01/14

I am also quite shy  never ever sang at school. It could be quite tough  but it is something that everyone goes through  so she wouldn''t be alone.
In this situation  one can do more harm by shelltering her almost making her an outcast. I will rather encourage you/her to try and blend in and sort of disapear as much as possible amongst the other kids.
Not fun  but also. In a way we need to learn to fend for ourselves and to survive. And sometimes  us parents can be too protective... I may alos bye guilty of this as a dad sometimes.... Good luck to her  she might even find it ok once she get''s used to it.

Reply to Phil
Posted by: Brigitte | 2013/01/14

Thanks for all the input. I did tell her that she would be singled out if she didn''t do it. She still doesn''t want to do it. I understand that it''s better if she does it. She doesn''t mind too much if it''s in groups, it''s doing it on her own that''s bothering her. She''s had a bit of a rough childhood and has been teased and called names at school all through primary school, so her concerns are not unfounded. I just think it''s silly to basically encourage bullying essentially. Also, why was I told there wasn''t any initiation and they are totally against it, yet here they are doing it and giving the matrics full permission to do it? Seems like I was lied to, which isn''t right. Why was the school not forthright with me when I specifically asked them out about this due to my daughter''s concerns. Anyhow, thanks again. We''ll just have to see how it goes.

Reply to Brigitte
Posted by: Oh Dear... | 2013/01/14

Strange how the Army did wonders...and now there is no Army.... Say no more!

Reply to Oh Dear...
Posted by: Maria | 2013/01/14

I''m also an introvert and I hated the initiation in high school. I agree with you that it''s stupid, but some kids love it and presumably feel more part of the school as a result. But you know what? It''s a valuable life lesson. There are times in life when you have to do things that pushes you out of your comfort zone, and this is one of those times. I agree with the others - work on your child''s attitude and don''t single her out as the one person who doesn''t participate.

Reply to Maria
Posted by: Liza | 2013/01/14

It''s not the initiation that causes emotional problems - it''s the attitude towards initiation that causes the emotional problems. Naturally there are schools that take initiation too far, but they''re a very small minority.

If a child has the right attitude towards initiation, it will NOT cause emotional distress. I''m an extreme introvert, yet during our initiation I jumped into all my assigned tasks with enthusiasm. The truth is - as soon as the older students see that you''re not going to be cowed by their demands and instead of hating it that you''re enjoying it and laughing with them about the silliness of it all, they don''t bother trying to make things difficult anymore and move onto the next student who''s more bothered with the things they''re asked to do.

Change the attitude - not the school...

Good Luck,

Reply to Liza | 1 comment (hide)
Posted by: TWS | 2015/10/01

Lisa, This is absolutely barbaric. No one should be subjected to the kind of abuse you are describing here. "Moving on to the next person who doesn't like it",,,,feh! That's condoning bullying, plain and simple.

Posted by: Anon | 2013/01/14

Singling her out is going to make things difficult for her with both the teachers and other students. No one likes the one kid who is too ''special'' to participate. Nothing you describe sounds dangerous or too degrading, it sounds pretty mild.

With my intiation they had all of us line up, gave us a sign to hang around necks with our name, who our ''owner'' was and a pet name, some of the groups had to suck on pacifiers other had to carry a pet egg everywhere, we also had to sing and dance and perform for the entire school as they walked in the gates every morning. On the very first day they had us all undo our hair and threw syrup on our heads aswell, what a mess to get it out that afternoon!
Yes it was embarrasing but it was a group thing, no one was singled out and the older kids and teachers laughed at you for a week or two but after that? No one cared because they had all gone through it aswell. It was the kids who outrightly refused to take part that the teachers disliked for their entire highschool career and everyone just assumed that they were stuck up and thought to much of themselves. I think that was what they were trying to emphase with our intiation, your no longer the ''big kids'' but the ''babies'' of the school and also to give you an oppertunity to make friends with the other newcomers because you are all on equal footing.

Reply to Anon
Posted by: Jenna | 2013/01/14

I honestly feel she will be " attacked"  on a more personal scale if she doesn''t partake. She will then be the odd one out, and that will give them more ammo than if she were to partake (she would blend in more with the student who do the initiation, not stick out like a sore thumb).

Initiation is supposed to be fun- I remember at my initiation we have to bring broomsticks and run around the field singing the Tellitubbies theme song. I also had to act like a meerkat to get a signature. I even, with two of my friends, had to stand on the first floor of the building and sing our primary school song to the prefects in the courtyard to get signatures.

I am also extremely shy, introverted and it''s hard for me to make friends, but I actually thoroughly enjoyed the initiation.

I feel it actually might be good for her, it will bring her out of her shell a bit. And like I say, reduce her risk of always have the reputation of being the girl who was too scared to partake.

It''s character building, as long as they don''t have to do anything really bad, like eat off food, then there is no harm.

Reply to Jenna
Posted by: Brigitte | 2013/01/14

I also wanted to add that all the stress because of this has caused my daughter to not be able to sleep and she also has tummy problems (nausea / cramps / tummy ache) as a result of all this.

Reply to Brigitte

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