SD20 urges caution for unsanctioned graduation events

SD20 cautions parents after receiving reports of hazing younger students.

Grad weekend is almost here for the Grade 12 students at J.L. Crowe Secondary School, and school officials want parents to know that some unsanctioned events can be harmful.

On Tuesday afternoon, School District 20 (SD20) sent a letter addressed to the parents of high school students, warning them about unapproved grad weekend events, like the camp out, grad parties where alcohol is being served and hazing with wooden paddles.

J.L. Crowe Principal David DeRosa, says while there was no specific event that prompted the writing of the letter, the school’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC) had received some complaints from community members leading up to the big weekend.

“Our PAC received formal letters from concerned parents talking specifically about the paddling,” he said, mentioning that there have been reports of graduating students using wooden paddles to hit younger students as a sort of initiation. “That was new to me, but we wanted to emphasize it. We (at the school and district) had a good conversation about it and we felt that the time was right to let the community know that we don’t support it, and in fact, we don’t want it.”

The letter told parents that hazing younger students with a paddle would be seen as assault with a weapon, and the offending students could face reaction from the RCMP if reported. Students who are found to have participated in the hazing will “lose the privilege of participating in the graduations ceremony and citizenship-related scholarships and bursaries.”

The letter also addresses the long-standing student tradition of going on a grad ‘camp out,’ where in the past, there has been heavy drinking and safety concerns. Parents were informed that students who arrive at school the day after the camp out smelling of alcohol and wood smoke will be sent home, as outlined in the district code of conduct.

DeRosa says that by sending out the letter ahead of grad, the district and schools are getting in front of the issue and hopes it starts some family discussions.

“Historically, we have said that these things are not associated with us, so it wasn’t our responsibility,” he said. “But, they are our kids. That is how I look at it. I want to do whatever I can to keep them safe and have a happy and successful grad. They need to know that some of these things aren’t appropriate. We are hoping that letter to parents brings up a conversation. Some of our teachers have told me that some of the younger kids have been asking about (paddling and the camp out).”

It isn’t just the parents that are getting the message. Students have been, and will be, reminded of the same rules before grad weekend arrives. Even younger students who will be going through the graduation process next year are included in the discussion.

“We meet with the Grade 11 students at this time of year and tell them now that Grad 2015 is wrapping up, it will be their turn,” said DeRosa. “We start the one-year countdown. We just want to remind them of the district code of conduct and our expectations. Teachers are reiterating the message in classrooms, but that is not formal. We talk about safety as our primary concern.”

J.L. Crowe Grad Weekend officially takes off with the formal cap and gown ceremony on June 12 at 7 p.m. at Cominco Arena. The next day is the annual Memory Walk and Prom, which is alcohol free. For more information about grad weekend, visit the J.L. Crowe website.