- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

STAUNTON, Va. (AP) — Police will begin interviewing suspects today at the Robert E. Lee High School in connection with an unauthorized tradition known as the “freshman beatdown,” which apparently has escalated to violence.

The freshman initiation once involved such pranks as putting students in trash cans or lockers. But some students say the hazing has gone too far.

“You’re not supposed to be hurting people,” sophomore Earl Roberts told the Daily News Leader of Staunton. “It’s more or less playing around.”

Lee football coach David Tibbs confirmed that six of his players were suspended Thursday and did not play in Friday’s game. He declined to state the reasons for the punishment or the length of the suspensions.

The incidents reportedly occurred after an Oct. 2 homecoming pep rally.

Police talked to all the reported victims by Friday, said Amy Pultz, Staunton Police Department spokeswoman.

“The whole freshmen class got rocked,” said student Edwin White.

Mr. White said he was jumped by a group of upperclassmen and saw several of his classmates getting even worse treatment.

“It was supposed to just be a football thing,” he said. “But this year even girls [were] fighting. It was crazy.”

Ada Greene said her 14-year-old daughter and her daughter’s best friend were jumped in the hallway after the pep rally. The freshmen made for easy targets because they were wearing black T-shirts with a white “007” to represent their graduation year.

A couple of sophomores reportedly punched the girls, who had visible bruises.

However, other freshmen said their classmates were overreacting to this year’s edition of the “beatdown.”

“I’m very relieved we found out about it so that it never has to happen again,” said Principal Bobbi Macomber. “Our No. 1 objective is we want Lee to be a place where the kids know they’re safe. We want every student in this school to feel safe.”

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