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August  12

One Zone You Don't Want To Be In

Yikes -- move to the suburbs for "good" schools and this is what you get. From the Star Ledger:

The ritual was known in the locker room as "brown-zoning" and the practice was anything but pleasant.

According to a civil suit filed against the school district, it entailed pinning Livingston High School baseball players to the ground while their teammates flashed their buttocks and genitalia in the players' faces.

But after one student, Eugene J. Sullivan, complained about being brown-zoned following a baseball game in 2001, he said district administrators allowed students and coaches to retaliate and humiliate him in school.

The story brings back memories of the Long Island football hazing at Bellmore-Merrick's Mepham. So is it a sports thing, or more about a school's population, that creates an environment where hazing and demeaning initiation rites can flourish?

August 12, 2005 in Really Freaking Weird | Permalink


Largely this kind of nonsense is allowed to continue year after year, particularly in the context of male sports, is because of ignorant coaches and other adults who maintain a "nudge, nudge, wink wink, boys will be boys" kind of attitude. I clearly remember coaches in my high school (in NY) who somehow equated these kinds of "rites of passage" as important in developing character and good as "toughening up" athletes. Yikes. What jackasses. The reality is that adolescents - boys in particular - are not men and should not be treated as men. They are incredibly susceptible to bad decision making and peer pressure to engage in stupid things, particularly in groups. Adults who look the other way and don't aggressivley move to end hazing and the like SHOULD be held financially responsibile and SHOULD lose their jobs. If teachers and administrators send the message the harassing gay kids, and small kids, and minority kids will not be tolerated and that offending kids will be thrown out of school pronto, and that zero tolerance is the rule, this crap would end quickly.

Posted by: montclair_is_crazy | Aug 12, 2005 9:35:48 AM

Unfortunately violence and bullying are alive and well in school districts throughout the state and nation.

Of interest on this topic is an article from the Sar Ledger (8/6/05) "Fighting Back Against Violence" which can be accessed on-line at:


Posted by: arnie | Aug 12, 2005 9:36:22 AM

This stuff makes me sick. I mean shooting shaving cream at someone or filling someones locker with horse manure is one thing.

Let's see when I was in school I heard the Soccer team's hazing ritual was to duct tape a Freshman to a bench and leave him there. Usually, all they would be wearing was a jock strap. They'd take polaroids and put them throughout the school That's pretty bad. But I didn't play soccer, I ran track, there were no hazing rituals.

But smearing your stuff into some other guy's face, that raises some serious questions. I mean you have to question the integrity of those who decide to haze people, and it is unacceptable behavior, but this is taken to another level.

Posted by: MyManMisterC | Aug 12, 2005 10:48:18 AM

I hope they dont give them a Cleveland Steamer or a Mississippi mudhoney swirl!

Posted by: Pete North | Aug 12, 2005 11:26:14 AM


Here are some givens to this situation:

1. The coaches/supervisors/administrators of these kids deserve whatever is coming to them, as do the kids involved (against whom, I believe, criminal charges have been filed)

2. Bullying of any kind should not be tolerated in schools - it's the law.

However, where is the parent component in this matter? Within the past 24 hours, I have read the above referenced article and 2 different articles regarding our area's NCLB (No Child Left Behind) results.

Let the fingerpointing commence.

As an educator, I have seen more and more responsibilities once exclusive to parents become the burden of teachers and administrators. Character education is now it's own field, for crying out loud! Do I agree that these kids need character ed from every angle they can get it? For the most part, yes. Do I enjoy facilitating such education? Absolutely - it's creative and can be quite moving. But guess what? My teaching kids how to get along takes time. Time away from...you guessed it - academics. Uh oh. That's time that we need to bolster test scores so we stay out of The Star Ledger. Something's gotta give, ladies and gents.

When I was a kid (and I am a mere 30 years old), there was no character ed. There were no bullying laws. And yes, high school was no walk in the park.

However, what kept me in line the most was the mere idea that if I caused trouble in any way, I would have to deal with my mother and my father. Despite mutual loathing, these two individuals formed a united front in terms of my behavior, development, etc. They never bailed me out of situations of my own doing and never made excuses for me. Hence, I was provided with an invaluable tool: personal responsibility.

In the past few years, I have been appalled by both the number and ridiculousness of comments that I have heard from parents regarding their child's behavior. Some of my personal favorites:

In reference to her 10 year old son (WHO WAS IN THE ROOM ON HER LAP) fondling a female classmate : "Girls encourage that kind of behavior. She probably asked for it."

After a bullying incident that left a child with a torn shirt and a scrape across his face: "Oh it's just boys being boys. He wasn't really hurt, right?"

To a fellow teacher at 7:15am via phone: "I told [Jon] that he couldn't bring his Gameboy on the field trip, but he won't listen to me. Could I put him on the phone so you could tell him he can't?"

Again, anyone who allowed (implicitly or otherwise) those boys in Livingston to do what they (allegedly) did has no business even being in the vicinity of children and adolescents. However, I think that we all need to take a look at our contributions (or lack thereof) to some solutions and start working.

As for NCLB, my district was in compliance, but it was not without lots of test prep, much to the chagrin of my progressive education and what the research of all those morons at places such as, oh, Columbia, Bank Street, and that edu-shack Harvard shows. I've worked in schools that haven't met NCLB standards and for the most part, they are really good schools. Schools in which teachers stay long after the school day to tutor, guide, or just listen to kids who go home to rough situations.

But here's the kicker: If you gave the recipient of the National Teacher Award 8 hours a day with a child that is reading below grade level, but that child went home after working with that teacher to a home where books are non-existent and TV watching and video games are the primary sources of activity...well, what do you think will happen?

Now, most of you all out there in baristaland are conscientious people. I see it when I shop and eat in Montclair and Bloomfield. Parents take a trip to the toy store and turn it into a lesson on money. Kids come out to dinner with their parents wit books and other activities in hand when (5 seconds into dinner) adult conversation becomes boring. It makes me so happy (and I've been known to embarass my husband by commenting as such to perfect strangers) to see things like that. Nevertheless, the reality is that not all kids have such opportunities.

I wish I could change the world and make everyone who works with kids be responsible people with the ability to balance guidance and discipline, and help every child to meet the standards (however absurd they may be for some) set forth by this administration, but I can't. It just kills me though, that educators seem to be the first in the line of fire altogether too often.

Thank you for the venue du rant.

Posted by: Dog Mom | Aug 12, 2005 11:28:23 AM

You've got a point, Dog Mom, but I don't think it may apply least of all to hazing, which after goes on while the kids are in supposedly supervised activities.

Nice manifesto, montclair_is_crazy. Right on!

By the way, the word of the day seems to be "crap". (I don't make the news, I just report it.)

Posted by: walleroo | Aug 12, 2005 11:38:08 AM

Wasn't there an incident like this in Lyndhurst fairly recently? As I recall a street fight between members of two rival football teams erupted after there was a story in the paper about freshmen being forced to play naked twister at one school's football camp. The fight escalated into a riot of sorts, which eventually led or at least contributed to the end of cruising on Ridge Road, which had become a weekend pastime for hundreds of kids. I know we used to drive there all the way from Wayne.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 12, 2005 11:44:27 AM

I agree with most of the above comments, but it's Friday, so I'll share a personal hazing story (I was a winess only).....

Every year the senior boys on our college swim team would pick one freshman boy to do "power sit-ups." This involved laying on his back to do sit-ups while one person held a towel over his forehead (and incidentally his eyes). So while this provided some resistance for a few "power sit-ups", it also provided a blindfold while one of the senior boys stripped down to nothing and put his rear end right in front of the kid's face. When ready, the person holding the towel would pull it away in the middle of a sit-up so that the kid's face would smack right into the other guy's arse.

Personally, I could never understand why these guys wanted someone's face smacking into their ass.... but to each his own, I suppose. Yes, it's wrong, disgusting, etc.... but mildy humorous at the time. And at the very least, it's much safer than any hazing involving drinking or criminal mischeif.

Posted by: Erin | Aug 12, 2005 12:02:24 PM

Hey, sounds like fun, Erin. The problems arise, though, when this kind of thing is allowed to get out of hand. The difference is between providing some resistance that keeps a lid on it, versus giving kids the message that anything goes because boys will be boys.

Posted by: walleroo | Aug 12, 2005 1:11:37 PM

Boy, I don't think this is what athletes refer to when they talk about being in the zone.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 12, 2005 2:18:02 PM

Duh, just reread the headline. Never mind.

Posted by: Chris | Aug 12, 2005 2:18:38 PM

Hey walleroo...

Hazing is a dumb, meathead activity, which should not happen at the collegiate level, much less the high school level and below. Adults in charge, whatever the activity, should be vigilant in this respect and be held completely accountable for their actions or lack thereof. With that, I completely agree.

However, I've heard altogether too many parents justifying such acts as "part of growing up," thereby being permissive of the behavior. I have a very hard time believing that no parents of the alleged perpetrators had any idea as to what their little angels were doing.

That said, having attended a heavily frat-saturated institution of higher learning, "brown-zoning" is nothing compared to some of the things that I saw at one of the top schools in the country. God bless our future.

Posted by: Dog Mom | Aug 12, 2005 3:12:08 PM

Since my BHS '04 grad played baseball for 4 years, I can attest to the fact that the worst & only "hazing" that went on on his locker room was pushing guys in the shower.

For the first time I think I'm proud to say that Bloomfield is NOT Livingston!

Posted by: Surrounded | Aug 12, 2005 4:33:44 PM

"I have a very hard time believing that no parents of the alleged perpetrators had any idea as to what their little angels were doing."

I agree.

Posted by: walleroo | Aug 15, 2005 8:28:55 AM

My fallopian tubes are tying themselves as I read this thread.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Aug 15, 2005 10:00:45 AM

Wow, that's a heckuv'an image.

Posted by: walleroo | Aug 15, 2005 10:28:07 AM

Sorry for being so graphic, Walleroo, but what happened to kids just playing sports? I was on the track team in high school and we never did anything like this. In fact, I don't recall any of the boys' teams at my high school doing stuff like this either.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Aug 15, 2005 10:35:58 AM

I did football and track, and we never did anything like this either. Though I do remember once as a freshman being scared to death when my older teammates were trying to exhort us to go out and beat the crap out of members of an opposing team the night before a big game in retaliation for something they supposedly had done to one of our own, according to somebody. We never did, though. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed.

But as a general rule -- and I say this as a father of both a girl and a boy -- that girls are far far more sensible. Less destructive, better able to handle victory and defeat. I can remember being devastated losing games--morose for like the whole week. Whereas my daughter's already gotten over it by the time we get in the car.

Posted by: walleroo | Aug 15, 2005 10:53:41 AM

So... all of you know the coaches in Livingston. Yes, the hazing took place, but no, the coaches did not encourage it or even know it took place. I have played for both of the coaches in the article. They were no nonsense guys that didn't put up with any garbage.
And as for the varsity letters, the student, Sullivan, didn't earn one based on the criteria. When his mom, a school secreatry complained, the superintendent forced the coaches to give him one. With that, the other athletes voluntarily rejected theirs in a sign of unity. The coaches had nothing to do with it.

Posted by: thumos | Aug 16, 2005 10:22:24 AM

So you're saying, thumos, that the players rejected their varsity letters because this kid Sullivan got his undeservedly, and that this had nothing to do with the hazing?

The coaches may have been no non-sense guys, but apparently the did put up with hazing. I find it hard to believe that they knew nothing about the practice--do you? Did they do anything to discourage it?

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