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Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

Innocent fun loses to officials' fears

Friday, October 24, 2003

Here's how the initiation ritual - a long tradition based in pure humor - works. The varsity members of the girls volleyball team send the junior varsity players to guard the gym doors so no one will enter. And then the varsity girls tell the freshmen girls they have a new drill to practice. As each freshman runs to the volleyball net, a varsity girl teammate slips up behind them and yanks their gym short down in a "pantsing" tradition that goes back as far as memory serves. The girls all get a big laugh out of the silly ritual and that's the end of that.

Except in Wentzville where eight members of the varsity team were suspended from school for 10 days and the coaches lost their coaching jobs. Additional sanctions may be forthcoming.

I think this is as ridiculous as it gets. We seem to have difficulty defining fun pranks and true harassment and to me, it just shouldn't be that hard. This incident in Wentzville was about as innocent as it gets. None of the freshmen even protested and all joined in the laughter that followed the team tradition. Not one freshman said she was humiliated or harmed by the incident. But that doesn't matter in a society where fun is being replaced with policy and procedure. We're rapidly losing our human element - those little daily events that mean little except in terms of memories. "Pantsing" goes back to my junior high school days and undoubtedly far beyond that as well.

This minor incident was nothing more than an incentive to have some innocent fun. It carried no other connotation and was viewed by no one other than a handful of team members. There were no cries of anguish or protest because it was accepted in the spirit in which is was given - fun and nothing else.

But increasingly, fun is forbidden for the sake of some shadowy issue in the minds of adults. Somehow, school officials - in obvious fear of some reprisal - want to outlaw traditions and pranks and activities that shape lives in some lighter ways. And at the core of this sad trend is fear - fear of school officials that this incident might be taken wrong, fear that someone would be offended even though no one voiced any offense whatsoever. Just plain fear.

Granted, pranks of some nature can get out of hand and people can be harmed in some way. But when we draw the line, maybe we should consider the true nature of the incident. In this case, Wentzville school officials made a mountain out of a molehill and they are the ones who look foolish.



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