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Amid rise in high school hazing, concern over increasingly sexual nature

Allegations of hazing against two high school sports teams – one in California, one in Massachusetts – point to an increase in high school hazing as well as a turn toward sexual acts.

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Students arrive for classes at La Puente High School in La Puente, Calif., Monday, Sept. 24. Four students have been arrested at the school and one teacher-coach has been suspended with pay for their alleged involvement in a hazing incident at the school.

Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/AP

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Amid National Hazing Prevention Week, allegations of hazing on two high school sports teams – a football team in Dedham, Mass., and a soccer team in La Puente, Calif. – are focusing attention on the fact that high school hazing appears to be increasing.

The growing spotlight on the issue has achieved some gains: At least 44 states now have some form of an antihazing law, according to the law firm Manley Burke, which maintains an online database to track these laws. But the cultural factors that feed the ongoing practice are winning, for now, says Elliot Hopkins of the National Federation of State High School Associations in Indianapolis.

“From all the information we are gathering from around the country, this is definitely on the rise,” says Mr. Hopkins, who has spent two decades traveling the nation addressing educators on this issue.

Like bullying, hazing is by its very nature difficult to track. “Hazing is very underreported and difficult to put a number on,” he says. “These things are typically done to prove one is worthy to be in the group” and speaking up would ruin that.

“What makes it different from bullying is that it usually happens and then it is over," he adds. "Bullying, on the other hand, usually goes on without an end in sight."

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