Three high school students from Rye, New York are being charged with hazing-related felony and misdemeanor for kidnapping 8th graders and subjecting them to a paddling in an annual celebration known as “freshman Friday.” The students, Sean Pinson, Triston Scragg and Max Meyerson, are accused of forcing the boys into their car, taking them on a joyride, forcing them out of the vehicle and paddling at least two of them with a wide wooden board. One of the victims sustained injuries severe enough to require subsequent medical attention.
The three students responsible, all juniors at Rye High School, were arrested and charged as adults the next day. They have been released into the custody of their parents without bail.
Other Rye students interviews by the local ABC affiliate said that the Freshman Friday was a tradition at the school going back at least several years, and one that, until this incident, the police were content to ignore. The assertion was strongly disputed by the Rye City School District superintendent Edward J. Shine:
“Some have suggested that these alleged acts are part of an annual ‘tradition’ at Rye High School. Let me be clear: just because a small handful of students choose to believe that this is the case, does not make it a fact. Our school district and our educators put a premium on student safety, respect, and dignity, and work diligently each day to inspire these traits in our students,” the superintendent said in a statement to parents.
Shine said that officials are “greatly disturbed” by the allegations.
Although the incident took place off school grounds, in a statement Shine reiterated that the district expected better from its students. He added that there was no place either in the district’s schools or in Rye itself for students who thought such violent behavior, especially in service of a school-time prank, was acceptable and forgivable. He also promised that in addition to the penalties imposed by the legal system, the accused could expect to be severely disciplined by their school as well.
The response of the law enforcement officers in this case could have partially stemmed from increased sensitivity to hazing-related incidents after a death of a drum major at Florida A&M University last year.
Florida officials have announced that they are going ahead and filing charges against people they suspect are responsible for the recent hazing death of the Florida A&M University marching band member Robert Champion. Although medical report found that no single blow was the cause of Champion’s death, the prosecutors contend that he was beaten to death during the rituals commonly associated with the initiation into the band.