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Illicit CP - December 1996

Corpun file 07809

The Record, Bergen County, New Jersey, 21 December 1996

Seven Suspended In Sorority Hazing

Hawthorne Acts After Girl Is Paddled

By Jennifer Van Doren
Staff Writer

HAWTHORNE -- Seven eighth-grade girls were suspended earlier this month for what officials are terming "sorority" activities after a group of girls from Lincoln Middle School paddled another girl in a private home.

Schools Superintendent Richard Spirito said the girl was taken to the house and paddled on the buttocks until she was "black and blue," as part of an initiation rite. He said the incident occurred sometime in the second week of the month.

Because they are minors, school officials are not releasing the names of the girls who were suspended or the girl who was paddled. Those punished served from suspensions of from three to five days, depending on the extent of their involvement in the incident, Spirito said.

"[The parents of the girl who was paddled] wanted her to not be a part of the sorority," said Spirito. "They were fearful that because of peer pressure, she wouldn't be allowed to leave" the group.

The paddled girl's father, reached Friday, said he did not want to comment on the incident.

Hawthorne school officials have long battled problems stemming from groups of high school students who call themselves fraternities and sororities. The students sometimes dress the same way in school, write Greek letters on school property, and presumably meet after school in groups, Spirito said.

Only recently have such activities cropped up in the lower grades, he said.

Spirito said he is reluctant to use the word "gang," however. "This is not like an L.A. gang," he said. "This is not the Latin Kings walking down Lafayette Avenue," he added, referring to one of the largest nationwide street gangs.

In October five middle school boys were suspended, also for three days, for fraternity-initiation activities, Spirito said. The boys were seen by teachers on a nearby playground and were reported to school officials.

Spirito said all the parents involved, including those of the girls who were suspended, have been supportive of the school. After the holidays, he said he plans to hold meetings with all concerned parents to try to find ways to curb fraternity and sorority activity.

Just a week ago, the board took the first steps toward including a passage in the school's discipline policy to ban fraternities and sororities.

"The parents want action taken -- anybody would," said school board member Bruce Bennett. "We're investigating this further, and we're going to do whatever we can."

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