Sehome High School will not see any future changes to its football schedule following the conclusion of the Bellingham Public School District’s investigation into a hazing incident within the program.
“The investigation has concluded, and we do not anticipate additional changes to Sehome’s football schedule,” said Dana Smith, assistant director of communications for Bellingham Public Schools.
Sehome forfeited its Sept. 16 game versus Sedro-Woolley while the district investigated “serious concerns about hazing and behavior,” by the team’s players, Smith said in an email.
School and district leadership jointly decided to forfeit the game to discuss the issue with the team before they returned to practices and games, Smith said.
“The forfeit was not a punishment, but we needed time to continue understanding what occurred, and to work with the team to address these events before typical practices and games could resume,” Smith said.
On Sept. 22, Sehome Principal Sonia Cole sent out a letter to parents asking for their “trust” in the school as it and the district continued to investigate the hazing incident. Cole noted in the letter that the behavior had violated the district’s harassment, intimidation and bullying policies, as well as the athletic code of conduct.
Cole added that rumors being spread on social media regarding details of the incident were “untrue and unhelpful.” But the school district has provided no details on its own.
When Sehome returned to the field on Sept. 23 in a game against Burlington-Edison, head coach Kevin Beason confirmed that no players had been suspended from the team. He also noted that any further punitive measures were not within his purview.
The Mariners appeared to be at full strength once again in their game versus Lynden on Sept. 30.
Smith said she was unable to provide information on student discipline due to federal privacy laws. The district has not responded to requests from Cascadia Daily News to discuss suspensions or other discipline without identifying individuals.
Bellingham Public Schools' director of athletics and activities Laurel Peak and the district mental health director Chris Cochran are conducting a “multi-week program of lessons during practice,” in collaboration with school administration, coaches and student leaders, Smith said. The lessons are aimed to help identify and prevent future hazing and promote “fun and empowering team building.”
“We anticipate that similar teambuilding lessons may be used proactively across our athletics and activities programs,” Smith noted. “We are also looking into additional trainings for all coaches to support learning about identifying and preventing hazing behavior and building strong, positive teams.”
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Sehome's athletic director Colin Cushman was working in collaboration with the school's mental health director in conducting a “multi-week program of lessons during practice." The district's athletic director, Laurel Peak, and district mental health director, Chris Cochran, are in fact the individuals working on these programs. The story was updated to reflect this change at 6:29 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2022. The Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.