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The Tradition Of High School Froshing


Eight high school students spent their summer with us at KUOW. It was part of our youth radio program, Radio Active. Students worked with producers and editors and learned the basics of radio reporting. Over the coming weeks we are going to share some of these stories with you.

Today, RadioActive's Halle Bills takes a look at the high school tradition of hazing or "froshing." Froshing happens at high schools across the country. It is an initiation process where incoming freshmen are humiliated as they start the school year.


Anna: "Hurry up you lazy bums, come on, run faster. I know you all do sports."

That's Anna Griffith–Fillipo. She just graduated from Garfield High School. Last year she was captain of the girls swim team. It was her role to frosh the freshman on the team.

Anna: "We poured condiments on them, we made them do an Easter egg hunt and inside the Easter eggs were gross things. We sprayed them with hoses and stuff."

Froshing is a long–standing tradition at Garfield. Many freshmen there are froshed at the beginning of the year, at Homecoming, and at the end of the year during Spirit Week.

This tradition has been around as long as anyone can remember. The older students throw food at the freshmen. The freshmen have to dress in costumes and embarrass themselves in public. Sometimes they're even paddled or thrown into Lake Washington.

Recently, the Garfield administration has cracked down on froshing. They send patrols out looking for it and discourage it twice a year at assemblies.

Members of the administration at Garfield were not able to comment on this story. But they do give students a handbook on the first day of school that includes a strongly worded paragraph against froshing.

Actor: "Harassment and hazing constitute exceptional misconduct and are in fact felony offenses. This includes 'initiation' and 'froshing.' Prohibited activities include dunking in the lake, face painting, baby powder, whipped cream, shaving cream, boxing, other forms of initiation, humiliation, or abuse. Consequences include suspension or expulsion, and/or possible criminal charges."

Hazing freshmen isn't just a Garfield tradition. April Glass went through a similar experience when she was growing up in tiny Clerburne, Texas. It's the kind of town that has just one main street for parades. Once a year, freshmen are marched down this main street. The summer before ninth grade, April was one of these freshmen.

April: "We would stop at intervals, at intervals of parking lots, and do things like sing songs to upperclassmen and do things, there was something called the penny race where they'd put pennies on the ground and make you get on your hands and knees and push the penny from start to finish, basically."

Parents lined the streets to watch April be froshed. They watched as she and her friends were herded through a car wash like cattle, getting bruised and battered. This parade happens every year. It's so accepted that pictures of the event even show up in the high school yearbook.

April: "Even at the time it felt wrong and rather disturbing that we were having food dumped on us, but also it sadly felt like I'm being accepted because, you know, at 13 I think that's all I really wanted: to be accepted and to not be so awkward."

Although she felt awkward, it was even worse for those who weren't froshed. Only the popular kids were froshed. And if you didn't get hazed as a freshman, that was your last chance at popularity. Those who weren't froshed couldn't frosh the incoming ninth graders. They were then stuck on the outside looking in for the rest of high school. But because April was froshed, she was part of the popular crowd. Even so, she didn't want anything to do with the tradition.

Then the summer before sophomore year she got a call. It was from a rising freshman, begging April to frosh her. She wanted April to do this so someone meaner couldn't. April hesitated. Then another girl called her, pleading for the same thing. April reluctantly said yes, but now regrets that decision.

April: "I had thought at the time, well, you know, I'm taking it easy on this person, but now, of course, I think I can't believe I did that to a person."

Anna: "I definitely think that froshing is a rite of passage; it's definitely initiation into the Garfield community. It's definitely a bonding experience and it does make the Garfield community a lot stronger."

Anna Griffith–Fillipo loved being froshed. Even after having ketchup thrown on her and being embarrassed in public, she thought it was one of her best experiences at Garfield. This is why Anna risked expulsion to be involved. This is also why she is concerned about the administration cracking down on froshing. Anna and other seniors are afraid that froshing is dying out, weakening the sense of community at Garfield. Anna hopes this won't happen. She sees froshing as a gift — as a way to build stronger relationships between the classes.

Anna: "It wasn't like this happened to me so I have to make it happen to someone else because it was so horrible. It was more like, someone gave me this and I'm gonna pass it on as a tradition to continue."

Anna's froshing days are done. She is starting at the University of Washington this fall. But she hopes that froshing is a tradition that will continue at Garfield and at schools across the nation.

For RadioActive, I'm Halle Bills.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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