SEATTLE — It was Garfield’s principal, Ted Howard, who first got tipped off that something was going on last Friday at the Washington Park Arboretum.
When he and the school’s resource officer, who is a Seattle police officer, arrived at the park, they found more than 100 students engaged in activities that were illegal and/or against school policy.
“There was alcohol use involved. There were apparently some students who were involved in paddling of other students. There was some shoe polish involved in some way … they were writing on people’s faces with shoe polish,” Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Theresa Wippel said.
“It was a bunch of kids getting paddled, which is when they hit them with a paddle. I think it becomes a problem when it becomes abuse instead of just a little bit of humiliation and playing around,” Garfield student Clay Cantrell said.
“I don’t like the super violent hazing and I heard people were throwing Sriracha (hot sauce) in people’s eyes. I don’t like any of that,” Garfield student Ian Calvert said.
Investigators are having a tough time figuring out just who was involved because most of the students ran and some wore masks.
One thing we know for sure — hazing and alcohol-fueled parties are not new.
Garfield administrators have been dealing with it for years, and even students who disagree with violence feel hazing can be just good, clean fun.
“I’m strongly against the paddling and the physical things, but when it’s just hanging out with kids after school and making freshmen do challenges and just silly things, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Cantrell said.
“When I was a freshman, I got hazed and I thought it was pretty fun and that the seniors were including me in the community and that’s how I felt I was really part of Garfield,” Calvert said.
Still, parents we spoke with say that kind of activity has no place at Garfield High School.
“Garfield is a very good high school with a good reputation. I think it’s really bad what these kids are doing,” Garfield parent Cheresa Adams.
School official agree and want to make one thing clear to all students.
“Certainly we have a zero tolerance for bullying and harassment and intimidation and we take it very seriously, but we need to make sure we identify the students. Apparently some of the students did have masks on or hoods on,” Wippel said.
Howard said one of the students called him the ‘N’ word and some students actually caused at least one car accident as they ran into traffic, trying to get away.
An investigation is ongoing to determine which students were involved and to what extent and what punishment may be warranted.
Seattle police are also investigating, but say in the past that victims have refused to file charges after being pressured and intimidated by upperclassmen.