SALT LAKE CITY – A student at East High School is calling on his fellow classmates to end an annual hazing ritual.
Carter Rich described what incoming freshmen face from seniors prior to the beginning of the school year.
“It’s after your 8th grade year. The incoming seniors come and chase down the incoming freshmen and they hunt them down and shave their heads,” said Rich, who is currently a junior at East H.S.
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Rich says the younger students ultimately have a choice on whether to have their heads shaved, but those who chose not to take part are not accepted.
“High school itself is already very stressful,” Rich said. “They say, ‘OK, this will make me have friends. This will make me included,’ and so they agree to have their head shaved.”
Rich chose not to have his head shaved — a decision he said impacted his first year of high school.
“I was ostracized. It was difficult to be included and it made the start of high school very rough,” he said. “The seniors are in a position of power and they are convincing these more vulnerable people to have their heads shaved. I knew that was not right.”
Rich says as time passed, he gained acceptance from his peers, but that is not stopping him from being a vocal critic of the hazing practice.
“It’s not as simple as 'I am going to have my head shaved' — it's tradition. It’s not only tradition, it's hazing,” he said. “I want students to help each other and create a more positive and uplifting experience at East.”
School Principal Greg Maughan agrees.
“When it comes to something that can inflict harm, whether it's physical, social, emotional or mental — that’s never a rite of passage. It’s never a tradition,” Maughan said. “There are kids that want it. There are kids that don’t. There are parents who want it. There are parents who don’t. What I would say is, I don’t want it at all.”
Maughan is encouraging any students who feel they are a victim of hazing to come forward. Seniors who participate in those activities are subject to discipline.
Rich hopes students take the initiative to change the culture so the school can be a more welcoming place to its newest students.
“I'd say to them, please don’t shave. That’s harming the culture here and that’s the last thing the student body needs,” he said.