OGDEN -- Ogden High School cheerleaders haven't always been welcomed to the squad with condiments being thrown at them while being called unprintable names. There were times when the initiation to the squad was as simple as a pool party and a cheer in the rotunda. But times have changed and the initiations have become increasingly worse, especially in the past few years.
But one former Ogden cheerleader, mother and part-time coach of the girls' cross-country and track teams wants to see the initiations toned down, and she says embarrassing initiations won't be happening to teams she coaches.
Missy Allred cheered for Ogden High in the mid to late 1980s and remembers those times with fondness, "initiations" and all.
"I don't remember any kind of initiation, just a welcome and 'this is going to be really fun' party," Allred said. "There wasn't anything embarrassing."
Kristin Crosland cheered at Ogden High from 1988 to 1990, and her memories are similar.
"Our initiation involved early-morning pick up, wearing pj's to school and doing cheers in the rotunda. I found it fun at the time," she said. Both felt that their cheerleading experiences and welcoming weeks bonded the girls together. "My experience of cheerleaders was a tight, supportive community. They were literally my closest friends."
Allred has heard how things have grown progressively worse and wishes it were different, but she doesn't think criminal charges are necessary.
"Criminal charges are blowing things out of proportion," she said. She thinks the suspension was a good wake-up call for everyone involved, including the administration and the advisers involved. "It was unacceptable, and maybe this will all bring some awareness to it," she said of all the attention the hazing has received.
Situations like these make her and the other coaches of the running teams at the school aware that they need to make sure coming onto the team is welcoming experience.
"Who is going to want to be a part of a group where you are treated that way," Allred said, referring the cheerleading incident. Her teams have boating parties or a cabin retreat and try to avoid humiliating one group over another, ever.
One Ogden cheerleader from the late 1990s said she remembers doing initiations that involved other students besides cheerleaders and being blindfolded, but she didn't think it was that bad at the time.
"It would seem things are getting a little out of hand these days," she said.
One mom of girls who have cheered at Ogden High over a span of years has seen the initiations get worse quickly. She asked to remain anonymous. More than five years ago, her daughter had to cheer blindfolded at the cemetery and then cheer at the mall, and while she was embarrassed, it was nothing as bad as what has happened the last few years.
One former Ogden High cheerleader said two years ago the new cheerleaders had to put on piles of clothes and had inappropriate names and pictures drawn on their faces and had to cheer at the Junction in front of a large group of Ogden High students. Last year new cheerleaders were initiated similarly to this year, with condiments being thrown at them while blindfolded. The girls didn't have to strip down to be hosed off and not as many people were present as this year, but it was still humiliating, said another mom whose daughter was involved.
"I sometimes think that each year it has to get a little worse than the year before," the mom said. She doesn't think the girls set out for things to get as bad as they did, but she thinks each was afraid to be the one to speak up and say it needed to stop, especially once the boys entered the picture.
"Until you get a handle on it, it progressively gets worse," she said.
She hopes now that the events have come to light, the administration and the adviser will get some control of the situation so this no longer happens with the cheerleaders or other groups at the school.
Because the Utah High School Activities Association doesn't acknowledge cheerleading as an official sport, and because the state Board of Education only oversees matters of risk management when it involves the actual activities, all the jurisdiction of the future of the group is with the local district, said Vickie Schoenfeld, the public information officer for the state of Utah and Board of Education.
Donna Corby, district spokeswoman, agrees that things are escalating and feels confident the district and administrators will get a handle on things.
"It sounds like hazing and bullying are on the rise, even though we are talking about it more," Corby said. The students know it is unacceptable, but it almost needs to be ingrained in them when they are young, she said. She also hopes that it won't only be administrators who are cracking down on the students.
"This needs to be a community working together. We share the responsibility, and it takes a whole community to help change the course," Corby said.
The mom of the cheerleader initiated last year said it has opened up a dialogue with her children and has given her the chance to point out what was wrong with the situation.
Both she and Allred said several times that the kids involved aren't bad kids, but just kids who needed a little more guidance in their activities and needed to be told when to stop.
Many members of the Ogden High student body have reacted to the publicity over the hazing by voicing opinions on social networking sites such as Facebook, saying the cheerleader hazing wasn't necessarily hazing and that things are being blown out of proportion.
Corby said any time any student is placed in an unsafe situation with a school activity, it is a big deal. "This is about being accountable to every parent that we are going to take care of their child," Corby said. "These kinds of incidents don't speak well and hurt our reputation."