JUNEAU, Alaska — Police have ended a criminal investigation into a hazing ritual involving Juneau high school athletes and a wooden paddle that might have crossed the line into assault after no witnesses were willing to come forward.
“We know who was there, we know who did the paddling, we know who got paddled,” Police Chief Bryce Johnson told the Juneau Empire. “We’re pretty comfortable we know the majority of what happened, but we don’t have any of the people who got paddled willing to be a victim and step forward and say, ‘I’m willing to testify.’”
Parents have complained their high school-age children who are athletes were kidnapped and beaten with paddles May 31.
Johnson said the investigation showed the culprits came from all three high schools in Juneau, not just one as some parents previously believed.
He said possibly the most troubling part of the investigation was that this hazing has been going on for at least a decade, maybe longer.
“There’s a lengthy culture and tradition of this genre of activity going on,” he said. “You have a cycle (where) the kids that were paddled four years ago are the ones doing it four years later.”
Johnson said he believes this crosses the line into bullying and criminal behavior and must stop. He said their investigation was forwarded to the city attorney’s office, which will send it to the school district. School officials could impose sanctions it deems necessary.
“If we had a witness that would come forward and say, ‘This happened to me at this time and I would like to press charges,’ then we think we could put together a case and do that, but we don’t have that,” he said.
He said witnesses weren’t willing to come forward for a number of reasons, including fear of retaliation, being ostracized by their teammates and not wishing to rat out friends.
Another reason may be that the athletes feel this is their rite of passage.
“Victims make decisions for their individual lives, and we gave them the opportunity to come forward, and at the end of the day, it’s their choice whether they want to or not,” he said. “I can understand their reasons for not doing it and we’ll respect them.”