With all the concern about bullying in schools today, I was surprised to read that 47 Placer High School football players had their heads shaved last week “in a unique form of bonding from yesteryear.”
One paragraph in the Bee story Tuesday stood out in particular:
“Imagine the culture shock for Cody Guest, a junior transfer from Tennessee. His first day of football practice was Friday. Guest was introduced to a conditioning drill called ‘Stairway to Heaven’ – the opposite of what it really is – and then had a senior teammate run a clipper across his dome. Welcome aboard, kid.”
I guess you can write approvingly of the action and call it a “unique form of bonding,” as Bee prep writer Joe Davidson did, but I would call it the bullying of teenage athletes who had to accept this demeaning attack on their appearance and individuality if they wanted to play on the team.
“Cody had this long, curly hair, too, but he had a great attitude and bought in,” said Placer coach Joey Montoya.
Just when did he buy in, coach? Before or after an upper-classman cut off his hair? Was this requirement written down in school rules somewhere so that Cody and his parents had a chance to give informed consent? What advice warning did the other 46 players have? Why should any student have to go around with a shaved head 24 hours a day in order to participate in a school activity?
The macho warrior look originated at Placer High back in the mid-70s, Davidson writes, when coach Bill Miller embraced the ritual and guided the school to five Sac-Joaquin Section Division II titles from 1975 to 1981. It ended in 1995 for undisclosed reasons. Placer High has a strong team this year, and the idea of reinstituting the ritual took hold in some quarters.
“The kids brought up the shaving idea a few times,” said Montoya, a grandson of former coach Miller. “We have some players whose dads played here years ago with shaved heads, and alumni have been waiting for this for a while. …I hope it becomes an annual thing again.”
If a senior forcibly shaved the head of another student, he would face school disciplinary proceedings and possibly criminal charges. I hope the school administrators at Placer High recognize that bullying by any other name – tradition, bonding ritual — is still the same thing. It has no place in local high schools and their athletic programs.