Greeson: Time to remove haze from fight against hazing

Greeson: Time to remove haze from fight against hazing

January 30th, 2018 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum speaks to media on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, at the Grundy County Sheriff's Office in Altamont, Tenn., on an investigation into a "hazing" incident that happened Wednesday at Grundy County High School's football field house. At right, 12th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney David McGovern listens to Shrum and questions from reporters.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Four years ago this month, Dennis Goodwin started a side enterprise with the most noble of goals and the single worst mission statement ever.

"My ultimate goal is to be out of business in three years," said Goodwin, who lives and works outside of Boston.

If that strikes you as the backward-Bill Gates or silly-Sam Walton, well, that's OK. Goodwin, a science professor at a Massachusetts community college, is good with that.

Goodwin and Dr. Dave Cattoi started www.nohaze.org and started consulting various athletic organizations on ways to spot and confront hazing in January 2014. With more than 20 years around athletics as a coach and an official, Goodwin has spoken around the country at various universities and to athletic directors associations and administrators on hazing.

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

His goal of being out of work in three years would be hard to sell to investors. It appears to be even harder to accomplish.

"I get up at 5 a.m., and every morning I Google 'hazing,'" he told me Monday, the sadness in his voice ringing heavier than his New England accent. "There was the one in Utah last week and then the latest one in Texas."

The Utah incident involved a wrestling team. School officials are not sharing details other than saying it is "repulsive." The Texas soccer hazing incident involves sexual assault arrests of five team members. Then there is the Wyoming wrestling team members who allegedly waterboarded a freshman after the younger teammate allegedly winked at a senior captain.

Yes. Waterboarding.

To all of this we should be saying "enough." To the team members, stop it or go to jail. To the coaches, if you turn a blind eye, then you go to jail, too. You must stop this culture or lose your job. To the school administrators, make sure the coaches are stopping it or follow them out the door.

Administrators must reset the standards and expectations. Sure, it's a standard of decency that seems like a no brainer, but apparently too many people in school settings don't share that standard.

"Yes, so many folks view this unfortunately as a tradition. 'That's how it was when I was in school'-type stuff that is ridiculous," Goodwin said.

"Having been a former [lacrosse] coach and having officiated high school and college basketball and baseball for the last 30 years, I know the people who need to be proactive against hazing do not want to hear" about hazing from a clinical perspective.

Those of us in the 423 do not need to hear about horror stories from Utah, Texas, Wyoming or the next dateline in which hazing becomes the headline. We have our own — Ooltewah and Grundy County.

More Ooltewah rape case stories

Goodwin said he has talked with some officials about bringing an anti-bullying seminar to Tennessee.

To that, we should applaud. The sooner, the better.

Tennessee should make this a high priority; and the folks at Bonny Oaks — and in Grundy, Polk, Bradley and every other county — should see how they can help.

The Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association also should find out how it can help, be it writing checks or mandating that every coach who draws a check in this state attends one of the conferences or watches a webinar.

And before you roll your eyes, know that every volunteer youth sports coach in almost every league everywhere has to watch a seminar on concussions.

If you think the cash-strapped school systems — or even the pocket-stuffing TSSAA — will have a hard time affording these new requirements and restrictions, here are a couple of questions:

How much longer until Goodwin's Google search turns up a school you recognize?

If you say our schools can't afford these steps, I say: Remember all of the legal fees coming from the Ooltewah mess? Can our schools, educators and leaders afford not to do it?

What a better world it would be if we found a way to put Goodwin out of business in three years. Or, better yet, even sooner.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6343.

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