SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – After a freshman at East High, running from seniors, knocked on the door of Salt Lake’s former mayor — who, on Sunday, spoke out against a culture of hazing at the school — the principal urged parents to come forward as he acknowledged the culture of hazing has been going on for years.
“Incoming seniors find incoming freshmen to shave their head,” said principal Greg Maughan.
“It’s never been condoned from the school, and we’ve been very vocal,” he added.
Around 10 p.m. Saturday, former Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski says a freshman male knocked on her door after running up to her porch for help.
“This kid was very afraid,” she said.
Once Biskupski posted about the incident on Facebook, she says hundreds of comments came pouring in that indicated a years-long culture of hazing incoming freshmen.
“This isn’t just a rite of passage. This is kidnapping, it’s terrorizing, you are physically assaulting someone,” said Biskupski.
But principal Greg Maughan said the culture of silence involves a complicated set of circumstances — with some parents who do view the shaving as a rite of passage, and some students who feel the same.
“We’ve had students and their parents report that they look forward to this. That it’s their way of knowing that they belong and that they fit in and they’re popular enough to be shaved. That’s part of the culture that was pushing against here. And so for some students, they wear it proudly,” said Maughan.
Every year, he says, the school puts out a message to stop the hazing. But sometimes, he says, the message backfires when officials try to get the hazing to stop.
“Their personal homes get egged — our school gets egged — when we put this message out sometimes. And so, I think some of it is people not wanting to speak out over fear of retaliation,” said Maughan.