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Middletown School District announces new policies to handle hazing

The new plan is described as a "three-tiered approach," with some steps being immediately implemented and others phased in over the following months.
Credit: WPMT

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — The Middletown School District has announced a new approach to appropriately handle and eliminate hazing within the school.

Superintendent Dr. Chelton Hunter sent a letter on Wednesday to parents and guardians detailing the plan. The letter addressed how hazing will be handled moving forward within the district, following the cancellation of the high school's 2022 football season

The new plan is described as a "three-tiered approach," with some steps being immediately implemented and others phased in over the following months. 

The plan reads as follows: 

Phase 1: Response and Intervention

• Our School Board will review its policy on hazing.
• Our District Athlete Code of Conduct will be updated to include an Anti-Hazing Pledge, effective immediately. All fall coaches and athletes will be required to sign this, and it will become mandatory moving forward.
• All athletes and coaches will complete a 2-hour National Federation of High School Sports Anti-Hazing course.
• Our administrative team will develop a tiered disciplinary chart for hazing incidents.
• We are developing two ways to report hazing – an anonymous electronic form, as well as email reporting. Both will be closely monitored by multiple administrators.

Phase 2: Policy, Education and Reporting

• We have arranged for calls from victims of hazing to be expedited by the Transforming the Lives of Children Clinic in Harrisburg which provides counseling.
• We will help to facilitate in-home treatment services for students who participated in hazing, if appropriate.
• A sports psychologist who specializes in hazing as well as a representative from the Positive Coaching Alliance will speak with student-athletes during a voluntary group presentation.

Phase 3: Prevention and Cultural Shift

• Middletown Area School District is working with Stop Hazing, a national organization that works with schools, on a three-year intervention and cultural shift collaborative.
• Stop Hazing will conduct a data-driven assessment of our District’s current practices and culture, suggest a plan to promote a culture shift, as well as to identify students who are struggling through both individual and group supports.
• Middletown Area School District will be incorporating brief mental health and academic assessments of students, known as Universal Screeners, K-12, three times a year, for the 2022-2023 school year. Data from these screeners will then be reviewed by each school’s Student Assistance Team to identify students who are struggling in academic, social, emotional, and behavioral areas.

The district plans to involve students in this new approach and ensure that all of these efforts are approached in a positive way, rather than in a punitive manner. 

"The administration and staff recognize the importance of fostering a supportive and positive school climate and culture throughout every area of our District – in athletics, and beyond," said Dr. Hunter in a statement. 

"We know that fostering that environment also involves addressing students who act in a bullying manner toward other students. We also know that we can’t do this alone and will need support from the adults who are integral to our District, our students, and our community," he continued.

The announcement comes following seven former Middletown football players being expelled from the school on Tuesday. 

The school district was first informed of the suspected hazing by members of the football team on August 12, after a video showing an incident was circulated on social media. 

The video appeared to show a group of students holding down two of their teammates. The players allegedly used a muscle therapy gun and another piece of athletic equipment to poke the buttock region of the students on the ground.  

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