Garfield High students caught in Arboretum hazing incident

A hazing incident in the Arboretum late Friday afternoon involved more than 100 Garfield High School students. The students were hitting each other with paddles, throwing eggs, drinking alcohol, and were covered in shoe polish and wearing diapers.

Garfield High Principal Ted Howard arrived on the scene with the school’s community police officer after receiving a report of the incident. When he approached, students shouted derogatory names at him, including the N-Word.

Principal Howard wrote an email to Garfield parents on Friday night describing what happened:

An Important Message from Principal Howard…


Do you know where your son or daughter is at tonight?  I spent the afternoon with Officer Radford and many other officers walking through the Arboretum.  One hundred or more Garfield students were participating in hazing incidents, drinking hard alcohol and beer.  Students were being paddled, had on diapers, eggs were being thrown at students and shoe polish was all over their body.  As students ran and scattered from the scene they caused  at least one,  maybe more car accidents due to running in front of cars.  I was also called a “Nigger” by a student and many other derogatory names.


As I email you tonight I asked the question do you know where your son or daughter is at? I ask that question because I want you to know that we all have a responsibility to keep our kids safe.  We all work hard to make sure they learn life lessons and make better decisions.   Tonight some of our students didn’t make good decisions.  If students were there to watch,  cause harm to another student or behave inappropriately this impacts the entire GHS community and puts the GHS community in a negative light.


I am asked every year how we will address hazing.  Every year we work really hard to teach our students about respect, how to honor each other’s cultures, and to have empathy.  I am asking you tonight to continue that conversation with your son or daughter.  We are a community, a community that grows together and learns together.  Please have a conversation with your son and daughter about decisions, how they can and will impact people’s lives.


Thank you for your time.


Ted Howard

Principal Garfield HS

The district responded with the following message regarding hazing:

  • We have zero tolerance for bullying, hazing and intimidation, and we take it very seriously.
  • We are continuing to investigate this incident.
  • We are in the process of determining what type of disciplinary action is warranted for those students who were involved.

Seattle police responded to the incident Friday but have not made any arrests.

Seattle Public Schools spokesperson Teresa Wippel told KPLU that “Garfield has had a history of this hazing, and it’s something that’s been going on for many years. It’s kind of a tradition,” she said. “The principal has been working hard to rectify to get students to stop doing it, but it has been something that’s been going on for a while.” KPLU also noted that in a school newsletter last year, a parent wrote that upperclassmen tend to haze younger students twice a year, around Homecoming and Spring Spirit Week.

21 thoughts on “Garfield High students caught in Arboretum hazing incident

  1. 100 kids, some covered in shoe polish (black face?), some shouting the N word at authorities? Sounds like Garfield finally has an offense bad enough to employ kids to pick up trash around the neighborhood again.

    • No one said it was blackface, it was something (who knows what) used to write on faces, not color the faces so stop yelling fire in a theater. And Ted Howard may have been called the N word, which is not ok, but he also hears it daily at school because kids and even some parents use that word constantly in cajoling reference to eachother when they are of the same race. It’s when it’s use by one race against another that it becomes a hurled insult. Like it or not, that’s the culture currently. Same thing with the B word.

      Freshmen queue up to participate in hazing despite hand-wringing parental admonishments. It’s considered a rite of passage and bonds them with the older kids. Usually it’s challenges and silly things like being covered in catsup, or eating horseradish or whatever. My son did it despite my warnings and felt it was the best time of Freshman year, and he felt included by the seniors and “in” with the kids at his new school. When it turns violent or mean, that’s when it’s no longer cool. Which – if you watch the news video interviewing kids – is basically exactly what the kids said.

      • Delia,

        It’s never “cool.” If kids line up to be hazed, it’s because they want to choose the senior who abuses them (to limit the extent of the abuse) or because they feel they will be social outcasts if they don’t participate. There is no good reason for this activity and I’m shocked that a Garfield parent would condone it. These kids are hearing the right message from Ted Howard – pity they hear something else at home.

      • Lynn,
        What part of “My son did it despite my warnings” says I condoned it? I was one of the “don’t do it, they’ll throw you in the lake and give you alcohol poisoning and and and!” parents. However, you can’t chain your child up in the basement (particularly difficult when you work) and teens will push the boundaries and do what they want at times. They will even leave school grounds without telling you and vanish for hours. Unless you’re going to chip them like a dog, eventually you have to focus less on punishment and fear tactics and finger wagging and more on guiding them to make better choices, and to understand the consequences of all of their actions. Kids are not dogs that just need better training through ever more intense consequences and no chances at redemption. It is part of growing up that they will defy, experiment, and suffer the ramifications of bad choices. In my son’s case, he was with people he knew who had been friends from grade school, felt safe, did not feel humiliated, and actively wanted to participate. He thought it was great fun and didn’t feel shamed or the subject of “abuse” at all. They made it silly fun, not beating or stripping captured “victims”. All the hyperbole just serves to distance adults further from kids, rather than trying to actually understand what they do and why, and help guide them to understand the consequences of their choices. If you’re so concerned with the messages our kids are hearing, why don’t you volunteer a parent or community helper with one of the sports teams? There are several that have almost nil parent involvement, and the kids are awesome young men and women to get to know.

  2. I’m curious about whether Garfield returning to a ‘neighborhood only’ school would help. I was a GHS parent for over 14 years beginning in 1993 (my four kids went there), and have lived in the neighborhood for 22+ years. The mandatory open slots (APP Program, for example) for students from other neighborhoods, (at the expense of several neighborhood kids who couldn’t attend) created a disconnect within our community, and likely the racist and inappropriate behavior generated from those who didn’t live here and/or were privileged and entitled. There were numerous incidents where students violated the rules, were suspended or expelled, and lawyers were summoned by their parents to defend them, holding no accountability. Maybe things have changed with GHS being more of a neighborhood school, but parents struggled with this when I was involved.

    • I’m white. I grew up in the CD (I’m 50) and so did my mother. My white kids were raised in the CD and were in the AP program at GHS. The last one graduated 1 year ago. Be careful of your stereotypes.

      As for the kids partying at WA Park, it has long been a place for kids from the CD, GHS, RHS and Seattle Prep to get together. No one said what school the kid was from who yelled at Ted, or what color they were. Again, check your own racism. OUR community is diverse and always has been, with the ebb and flow or Italians, Japanese, and yes even whites whose kids aren’t all rich OR all disconnected from the community.

      With the insane amount of crime, violence, drug dealing and actual shootings in the CD do folks really have nothing better to gasp over than some kids participating in a yearly, fairly harmless, volunteer filled bunch of silliness?

      • Delia-
        I generally prefer to have these discussions in person…but, since this is an online forum, I’ll respond with a few clarifications and corrections:
        1.”The mandatory open slots (APP Program, for example) for students from other neighborhoods” There is no referral here to race. Our neighborhood kids, mine included, have familiarity with diverse races and ethnicities, having grown up with one another.
        2. The ebb and flow of diversity you mentioned forgot the African-American, Jewish and the Mediterranean peoples (of which I am a direct descendant of, by the way) as well as the Euro Americans.

      • Most of Garfield students are attendance area students. I can’t remember and maybe at the moment do not know the percentage of APP students at Garfield , but remember a good percent of those students also live in the attendance area. One of my daughters also came up through APP and both took AP classes and we live in the attendance area. I doubt that this has much to do with that issue at all. I believe that this type of activity is happening at other high schools and the Ted Howard is the one willing to do something about it. I would guess that familiarity is more likely to bring on hazing, meaning that it would happen among students who do know each other. But I don’t have any research on that. I just imagine that since the implication is that kids seem to volunteer to be hazed to be in the in crowd, that they already know each other, and unless there is some release of information that gives me a clue that it is related to a club or specific activity at Garfield, I am going to imagine that the 100 out 1600+ students participating in this could easily be any student, and that likely they had some knowledge of and relationship with each other prior to the incident.

      • “Mandatory APP slots”? When my kids were there (quite recently) there were no AP classes in 9th grade, so APP slots would occur in 10th grade, long after assignment.

    • All students within the Garfield attendance area go to Garfield under the current assignment plan and there is also an APP Northend option at Ingraham. Any APP student can go to Ingraham, but mainly Northend students opt to attend there.

      • Oh students who live in Montlake and didn’t get in to GHS – end up at Ingraham. Lots of those 4 years ago.

  3. This sounds like an important issue for parents to address and it is good that the principal has informed the parents.

    Now, he should get back to core curriculum and educating willing students. The school system must focus on core responsibilities and leave community policing and parenting where it belongs.

    SPS is grossly distracted from what should be it’s core mission of providing K-12 education – to meet a standard valuable to the student.

    Violence or crimes committed off campus are a parental and police issue. Let’s hold SPS responsible for education of willing students. Stop expecting them to be police, mental health institutions, councelors, food bank, prisons, maoist re-education camps, day care, small business promotors, etc.

    Schools are an opportunity we provide to our young citizens. Let’s focus on keeping the school house safe, staffed well, and provisioned for responsible young people that walk in the door.

    Socialization does happen, but, let’s allow it to happen around a core standard of education. Let’s not let socialization be the primary school activity with hope of some scrap of learning as a possibility.

  4. In a perfect world parents would take responsibility for their children’s actions, but sadly many don’t (^see comment above about litigation). Therefore their children are also incapable of taking that responsibility as well. I’ve seen a few responses from students involved in this incident and they try to brush it off as “teens will by teens” and “it might hurt my future college/academic life”, so leave us alone. I would imagine many of their parents feel the same way. Well, bottom line, underage drinking is against the law, duh. If they are so worried, then stay away. All the excuses just make ’em sound more guilty. Hey if the parents think it’s no big deal, why no host a party at their house?
    And just because this incident was off campus doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect what happens on campus. You think kids don’t get distracted by these sorts of things. What happens off campus to be “in” with the “in crowd” certainly is not just played out off campus. It does have an affect on students’ academic and social behavior at school. It does have an affect on teachers and administrators in the school. Every day.
    This hazing has been going on for years and it is probably good that Ted finally got a good look at it. Perhaps parents will think about it more too, having been finally called to task. This is ALL part of the learning process and it goes together at school and at home. They should be intertwined.

  5. Ted Howard ‘s response was fine, but he should have someone proofread his letters. “Do you know where your son or daughter is at?” Not the kind of English I would expect from an educator.

  6. Equally important: How many grammatical errors is a school principal allowed to make before parents stop taking him seriously?

  7. What puzzles me the most is the racist Garfield student who had the nerve to call the principal the N-word. Does this student realize that he attends a school right smack in a predominantly black neighborhood in Seattle? Ezells, a popular black-owned business is across the street. The Central Area was the only Seattle neighborhood that allowed Blacks and Minorities to buy a home back in the day.

    • My though is the same as Pinebeetle’s… absolutely nothing was said about the race of the kid who shouted the word…

  8. Nothing has been said about the race of the n word shouter. We do not know that the person was a racist or even a student. Really too many assumptions going on here. The incident may not have actually happened at all.

    If we are not provided with facts we can either just make them up or just assume that it is not worth knowing or never happened.

  9. Hey, I’m a high school student too (hi shorecrest students/alumni) and I think we should just stop and think about the fact hazing is still happening at high school. I understand soroities, and I know it’s still a serious problem, but imagine if you were paddled in TNT of a bunch of people. I mean how embarrassing? I’m sure it’s not going to traumatized them for life, but we modern teens have a habit of taking emotional things really bad, and so many students are depressed and consider suicide. I know I did at one point, until I realized it was kind of selfish (I could go on and on but that is a story for another time) so obviously I didn’t kill myself, but what if someone was already depressed? I don’t think some of you realize how serious this could be if it piled on top of other things. Alone, it may not be more than some mild embarrassment, but it could push someone over the edge. I personally am pretty unshakeable and all of my negative thoughts usually come from myself, but everybody is different. Hope you guys take this in consideration.

    • I meant to say in front of, not TNT. Sorry for all the mistakes, autocorrect has a thing of doing that.