A Colorado ranching town turned against a 13-year-old boy after he reported he was attacked by two upper classmen, bound with duct tape and sodomized with a pencil. The two alleged attackers were the sons of the high school wrestling coach and president of the school board, Robert Harris. The unidentified victim and his family were eventually forced to leave the town of Norwood.
Chris Staiti and Barry Bortnick of Bloomberg reported on the violent and abusive hazing ritual. The victim was attacked on an empty school bus while at the state high school wrestling tournament in Denver in 2012.
Once he reported the assault, people posted signs on the victim’s locker that said “Go to Hell.” They also wore T-shirts that celebrated his attackers.
Harris’ sons pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
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The victim is the son of a K-12 principal, who was forced to resign when Norwood residents turned on his whole family.
“We contacted everybody and nobody would help us,” said his father, who wished to remain anonymous to protect his son’s privacy, to Bloomberg News.
The family has since left the town of just 500 people near the Telluride ski resort. But something more sinister is happening here than simply holding athletes and coaches above the law. Norwood appears to have a hazing culture where assaults on school children like this one are common.
In April, KKCO 11 News reported that parents were calling for the principal to resign. At the time the two attackers were in juvenile detention, and their friends told reporters that the incident was all in good fun. They claimed hazings takes place all the time and principal does not issue punishment. Now they were afraid the principal would suddenly come after them “without reason.”
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A student alleged that 20 kids would leave the school is the principal was not fired. Twenty children makes up about one-third of the school.
Repeatedly, parents at an April meeting with the Norwood School Board said these hazing incidents happen all the time, and it is not fair for the attackers to get in trouble this time because the victim was the principal's son.
A professor of education law at Valparaiso University Law School in Indiana, Susan Stuart, who has studied the increase in federal lawsuits brought by male victims of sexual hazing, told Bloomberg that these kinds of hazings happen right under our noses.
“This is right out of ‘Lord of the Flies,”’ Stuart said. “And nobody knows about it.”