Six former cheerleaders and the former mascot from Morton Ranch High School made their first court appearances last week on hazing charges based on allegations that they pushed junior varsity cheerleaders, bound and blindfolded, into a swimming pool.
The misdemeanor charges state the defendants engaged in reckless conduct that endangered the mental and physical health and safety of the junior varsity cheerleaders. “We were bound by our shoulders and our wrists and blindfolded. And they started throwing water-balloons, hitting us with noodles, spraying our faces with hairspray. One of the girls was talking — one of the varsity cheerleaders put Silly String in her mouth. And some of the girls started crying. That’s when they stopped everything,” Laura DeLaCruz, 14, said Wednesday.
The incident, alleged to have occurred at a private residence, took place because the junior cheerleader was pledging and being initiated into the varsity squad. The girls, who will be tried as adults, face probation and community service to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine if convicted of the class B misdemeanor charges. The girls were ordered to reappear before state District Judge Larry Standley on Dec. 12 who will ultimately determine the punishment imposed if convicted.
Hazing in schools first caught media attention 3 years ago when a student at the University of Texas died after a hazing incident at the Lamda Phi Epsilon house in Austin. Three of the fraternity brothers pleaded no contest to similar charges the cheerleaders now face stemming from an incident in which the pledging boy was asked to drink an entire liter of rum. Obviously these circumstances are completely different. However, the dangerous conditions in both cases mixed with the victims’ voluntary compliance in order to gain needed acceptance seems to be a reoccurring problem with young teenagers. It will be interesting to see if the punishment imposed will help deter future incidents from occurring.