St. Albert hazing charges disappointing, school official says

A school superintendent in St. Albert, just northeast of Edmonton, says the arrest of 14 teenagers shows the need to work harder to get the message out that hazing rituals are not a harmless activity.

The arrest of 14 teenagers in St. Albert, just northwest of Edmonton, shows the community must work harder to get the message out that hazing rituals are not a harmless activity, a school superintendent said Wednesday.

RCMP announced the charges Tuesday after most of the teens made their first court appearance to face dozens of charges of assault with a weapon.

The teens are all 16 years old and from three high schools in St. Albert. They will be back in court Sept. 2.

"I'm, you know, disappointed. I also understand that we have more work to do," said Jerry Zimmer, superintendent of the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Board Wednesday.

The charges were laid after eight other teens — all 14 and 15 — complained to police they had been paddled with broken hockey sticks and cricket bats in a series of hazing rituals that occurred off school property during May and June.

The students suffered injuries ranging from bruising to bleeding, police said.

Zimmer said the two school boards in St. Albert have been working with police and other community leaders over the past few years to eradicate hazing rituals through education and poster campaigns.

But he said his community is not alone in facing this problem.

"I know it happens in other communities. It's not unique to St. Albert. I don't think it's much different from any of the other communities or from people living in Edmonton or other areas around."

Victims coming forward to report the attacks may be a sign that the education message is getting out, said Zimmer. In the past he doubts students would have reported such attacks.