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Streetsboro band director, assistant band director terminated following hazing investigation

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Posted at 10:39 PM, Jan 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-25 22:39:04-05

Two Streetsboro band directors have been terminated following an investigation into hazing allegations. 

The decision comes after an investigation that began after band camp at Camp Muskingum in Carroll County in August 2016. Streetsboro superintendent R. Michael Daulbaugh said the district received two complaints from parents of band members alleging hazing-type rituals such as bullying and belittling over the 3-day span of the camp. 

The Streetsboro Board of Education voted to terminate band director, Gretchen Weaver and assistant band director Shane Ellsworth at Tuesday's meeting. The vote was 4-0, with one board member abstaining. 

The board had Norman J. Pollard Ed.D., an expert on the culture and tradition of hazing, prepare a report. Pollard said "Ms. Weaver and Ms. Ellsworth created an unsafe and dangerous environment for the students charged to their care. The series of planned hazing events from this and previous years – bombarded with water balloons, skit night, needing to stand at attention while being squirted with silly string, wrapped in caution tape, wrapped in plastic wrap, males being squirted in the crotch area with water guns, being awoken to loud music, the trashing of their dorm, and then needing to clean up the senior’s mess prior to boarding the bus for home – were all grossly inappropriate band camp activities."

Read the full statement from the school board below: 

After months of investigation and careful deliberation, I am sad to announce the Streetsboro Board of Education has voted to terminate band director, Ms. Weaver, and Assistant Band Director Ms. Ellsworth. Let me explain some of the facts that required this painful decision. 

After an intense review of the facts related to the activities of Band Camp last summer and the actions of the band leaders and chaperones who were present, we had no choice but to follow the clearly identified Streetsboro Board policy regarding hazing and bullying. In our review we sought expert advice from Norman J. Pollard, Ed.D., a nationally recognized scholar who specializes in the culture and tradition of hazing. 

In Dr. Pollard’s fifteen page report, he wrote “It is my opinion that Ms. Weaver and Ms. Ellsworth created an unsafe and dangerous environment for the students charged to their care. The series of planned hazing events from this and previous years – bombarded with water balloons, skit night, needing to stand at attention while being squirted with silly string, wrapped in caution tape, wrapped in plastic wrap, males being squirted in the crotch area with water guns, being awoken to loud music, the trashing of their dorm, and then needing to clean up the senior’s mess prior to boarding the bus for home – were all grossly inappropriate band camp activities.  It is further my opinion that, as problematic as the sanctioned humiliation based hazing was, the act of sanctioning and organizing the “lake toss” event late at night after a long day of physical activity was dangerous, reckless, and negligent. The fact that both band directors stressed that no one was ever hurt (although there is evidence to the contrary) fails to justify the hazing.” 

Dr. Pollard also wrote that “It is my professional opinion that initiates in this type of scenario were effectively forced, coerced, manipulated, and compelled to participate and endure hazing rituals by the membership and that the rituals were sanctioned by the adults.” “It is my opinion that Ms. Weaver and Ms. Ellsworth were actively involved in hazing and humiliation of the new campers.” 

In a 4-0 vote by the Streetsboro School Board (with one board member abstaining), the Board agreed with the statement by Dr. Pollard that “It is my opinion that Ms. Weaver and Ms. Ellsworth were actively involved in hazing and humiliation of the new campers”. We have a duty to follow the clearly established Streetsboro City School District Board guidelines to protect ALL children. We have an obligation to change the culture of hazing for our students and faculty. No student should ever be forced, coerced, manipulated, and/or compelled to participate and endure hazing rituals.   Moreover, no student should ever be taught or conditioned to think that hazing and humiliation of fellow band members and others is appropriate or acceptable.   

In a final quote from Dr. Pollard’s report he noted, and the majority of the Board agrees, that “none of the band camp hazing activities planned by Ms. Weaver and Ms. Ellsworth resulted in the students becoming more proficient in playing their instruments or marching in band. Moreover, the impact of the culture of hazing will likely have a negative lasting impact on members who have been subjected to it thus far.” 

We will move forward and make sure that all faculty members and adults implement and adhere to the Streetsboro City School District policy and Ohio law. A full copy of the report by Dr. Pollard will be made available to all on our District web site.