While we don’t know the facts behind the hazing investigation that led to the cancellation of Mount Carmel Area’s football season this week, we do know the actions were deemed egregious enough to shut down one of Pennsylvania’s most storied prep athletic programs.

At a place like Mount Carmel, where football is about as important as anything, that is significant. A tip of the cap to school officials who are standing up and doing the right thing. It could not have been easy, the public pressure likely immense. School leaders used words like “regret” and “anguish” when announcing the decision.

School officials pulled the plug on the season Tuesday afternoon amid an ongoing investigation into hazing. Officials acknowledged the incident took place outside of school or practice but said members of the football team were involved.

For the entire season to be shut down — not just a handful of players pulled off the field and the rest of the squad carrying on — the incident had to involve a significant number of players.

The matter has been handed over to police, Superintendent Pete Cheddar said. “We feel swift and firm action is warranted given the information provided to local police,” Cheddar said.

The season could not continue with that cloud over the team. School leaders made the right decision.

We may never know what exactly happened because some of the individuals involved are likely juveniles. Some may be older than 18, and if charges are filed, the public will learn more.

Hazing isn’t a boys will be boys — or girls will be girls — kind of thing. It’s dangerous, divisive and illegal, including additional penalties codified in Pennsylvania following the death of a Penn State student in 2017 after a deadly hazing ritual at a fraternity house.

According to experts at hazingprevention.org, hazing is any “action taken or any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment or ridicule and risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team, whether new or not, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”

The website lists common factors among hazing incidents, including “power differential,” and an “intentional initiation rite, practice or ‘tradition’ involved.”

We will, hopefully, learn what happened at Mount Carmel. It can serve as a learning tool for others moving forward that these actions can’t and won’t be tolerated.

Those who took part should be held accountable for their actions. Canceling a football season is a small step, the impact on other programs is inconvenient, but inconsequential. The legal system will judge if more penalties are required.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

 

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