Newfoundland and Labrador's education minister has issued a stern warning that initiations — a rite of spring at many schools that often turns violent — will not be tolerated.
Clyde Jackman's warning comes as at least one school has revealed that students, particularly girls, are being coerced into taking sexually compromising photographs of themselves and posting them to social media.
"I'm hoping I can send a strong statement to everyone that this is not an acceptable type of behaviour," Jackman said. "We have to ensure that there are consequences."
Michelle Clemens, the principal of O'Donel High School in Mount Pearl, said she has been told that high school students are targeting girls in a nearby junior high school, and telling them to complete a scavenger hunt that has outrageous tasks.
"They're not asked to collect a bag of recyclables," she said.
"They're asked to drink alcohol, to pose in a sexually explicit fashion with statues, they're asked to kiss a stranger," said Clemens, who has spoken out in the past about initiations rituals involving students.
Young students are being told to post their photographs to Facebook, to prove to older students that they met their requirements.
Boys, meanwhile, are being targeted with the perennial problem of "paddling," with broken hockey sticks or pieces of wood, some of which reportedly have rusty nails.
Stella Greenslade, the principal of St. Peter's Junior High, said initiations started last week, and already some students have been injured. She said some students have come to see her privately about their fears.
"They're afraid that they can't go out at night, they can't walk to the store alone, they're afraid for their summer because they can't get out and do the same things that they want to do," she told CBC News.
Felt compelled to speak out, minister says
Jackman, who heard about the revelations earlier this week through a report on CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show, said he was appalled by what he heard.
"That really bothered me, and I thought, 'You know, I need to make a statement,' " said Jackman, who has been candid since taking office about having been bullied as a child.
'Parents have a responsibility … Maybe there are criminal charges that can be laid here.' —Clyde Jackman
Jackman said while schools need to enforce anti-hazing policies, he acknowledged that offences often happen off school grounds, and after the school year.
"Parents have a responsibility," said Jackman. "Maybe there are criminal charges that can be laid here."
However, students approached by CBC News said that despite warnings over the years, there are no consequences for hazing.
"I can't think of anyone who's actually gotten in trouble for paddling," one high school student said. "You get threatened [about] what's going to happen to you, 'You can't go to prom' and all this stuff, but it never really happens."