Hazing rituals have been around since the beginning of time, according to Diane Pacom from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Ottawa.
And, she said these rituals may never disappear.
The issue of hazing or “froshing” was very much an issue at Nepean High School last week, when a Grade 12 student was suspended for his role in egging a Grade 9 student off-campus. According to students, the Grade 12 student also hit the younger student’s bike wheel with his car.
Pacom said rituals like hazing existed when young boys were becoming hunters and warriors, and had to prove they were strong enough for whatever came their way.
“It’s embedded in the collective psyche that goes back to the beginning of civilization,” said Pacom.
However, she said hazing can be become dangerous when if it happens to victims who are particularly fragile or vulnerable.
“It can be extremely traumatic,” Pacom said. “Some kids are shorter, weaker, or lived through horrible things. It goes without saying that there are vulnerable kids amongst us.”
Hazing stems from the same need humans have had since the beginning of time, she said, but today it’s changed and has become more like a spectacle.
Even though Pacom thinks hazing won’t disappear, she said it could “mutate” with different social phenomena happening such as people having fewer children nowadays.
“We’ll have a rapport that’s very intense with kids, so I believe we’ll keep an eye on it. But it’s up to the schools to regulate those things,” Pacom said. “But I don’t think we can control it.”
Jennifer McKenzie, a school board trustee for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, said there are preventative measure programs in schools when it comes to hazing.
“We have progressive discipline that depends on the severity of the incident,” she said.
Nepean High School’s principal Rene Bibaud said the school has initiatives that help empower bystanders who might be witnessing a hazing incident, like the Canadian Red Cross’ Beyond the Hurt program.
He also said the school hosts mental health awareness days, and the annual FUSE program where Grade 9s interact with senior student leaders.
“It’s excellent training,” Bibaud said. “It’s a great opportunity for young people to become leaders and mentors.”
McKenzie wasn’t sure if hazing has gotten worse in recent years, but she said there is less acceptance of it being a “rite of passage.”
“People understand the harm it can do,” she said. “And kids are quite young in grade 9. It’s not fair to them.”