Football hazing is back in the spotlight after a Florida high school freshman was beaten by his teammates in an apparently ritual-like incident.
Darrion Denson, a student at Dr. Phillips High in Orlando, entered through the front door of the team’s locker room in spite of the custom for freshman to enter through the back door. His teammates became incensed by what they saw as a lack of respect and beat him.
“This is not slavery,” Rena Denson, the victim’s mother, told The Orlando Sentinel. “No longer I, as an African-American, or my son not be granted access through a front door.”
According to media reports, Denson was beaten with chairs, choked until he passed out, punched, and thrown into a garbage can. He also was relieved of $30 and his rosary. Denson was transported in a neck brace to the hospital where the assessment of his injuries included a concussion. According to ClickOrlando.com, the brain injuries he sustained will take three weeks to heal.
When told by her son what happened, Rena Denson drove to the high school to confront one of the alleged attackers. She said she was stopped by coaches and school administrators, and said the coaches dismissed her complaints.
“I was so upset, I couldn’t think,” she told ClickOrlando.com. “They laughed at me. They thought it was a joke. Do you know what it’s like to be a mother, a parent, and feel your children aren’t safe at school? This is not a joke. This horrific hazing is not a joke. This is our son.”
Police and school officials are now interviewing witnesses to find out what happened.
The incident mars what had been a bright start for the school’s football team. Dr. Phillips is the No. 38-ranked high school football team in the nation and beat Edgewater High, also of Orlando, 48-7 in their season-opening game.
None of that matters to the Denson family now, as Darrion Denson said he no longer wants to be a part of the football program, while his mother remains furious about how the situation was handled by the school where she said she was told the matter was just “boys being boys.”
“I thought Dr. Phillips was a renowned, respected high school with an excellent athletic program,” she told WKMG-TV.
School officials did not comment.