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On Hazing: These Are Our Own Rye Teenage Boys, and They Need Us Right Now

These Are Our Own Rye Teenage Boys, and They Need Us Right Now

By Diana McBaine-Cook, Esq., Guest Columnist

The choice we all made to move to Rye to raise our children is a bit like the choice we made when we got married: “For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health . . .” Most often in Rye we have had “better” times (if not fantastic times). Most often in Rye we have prospered and then paid high taxes so our community will continue to flourish. And most often in Rye we have been healthy. But in the last few weeks, we have witnessed the “for worse” part of the choice we made to move here. We have been under intense police pressure, as well as local and national media scrutiny, for events involving our teenagers — mainly our teenage boys. We have had teenage boys go missing and teenage boys acting out terrible hazing rituals that, apparently, were perpetrated upon them when they were younger. We all know the details to which I refer, and I do not plan to go into them further here.

Instead of focusing on the details of these recent events, I wish to remind all of you that these are our Rye teenage boys. They are part of our “marriage” to Rye. They are our own football players, our Garnets, our lacrosse players, our Rye High School students. They are the children of leaders of Rye youth sports and pillars of the community who have given so much back to the other children and families in Rye with their endless volunteer work. So, it is the responsibility of all of us to protect our Rye teenage boys now; to guide them and watch over them even when they have troubles — dare I say especially when they have troubles. That is, after all, one reason why we moved here: so that the small community would rally behind our own children if they ever have a time of need.

Just because things have hit a rough patch does not mean that we end our so-called “marriage” to Rye. (A “divorce” is not that easy by the way. You have to move out of Rye). Just because our teenage boys have been in trouble does not mean they are no longer part of the so-called “oath” we took when we moved here to stick together in this small town, pay high taxes, and do endless hours of local volunteer work so that our community, and our children, would flourish.

Why am I the one to write to you about this matter you may ask? First of all, I practiced criminal defense law in the past and have worked with juvenile defendants. So, as a former defense attorney, I am telling you that I am extremely concerned about the fact that our teenage boys are being charged as adults when they are only 16 and 17; I am extremely concerned about the fact that the media is publishing their names and showing their photos when they are only 16 and 17; and I am extremely concerned about the mental health stresses to these boys (not to mention their families) when they are only 16 and 17. I worry that these intense legal, media, and mental health strains may lead our small, tight-knit community to more sorrow and damage rather than to a resolution of this hazing problem or to the intense social pressures teenagers here face. I have seen it myself in criminal defense practice and I remind you that the teenage mind can only handle so much pressure and guilt at one time. The teenage mind is not as strong as the adult mind.

Criminal defense lawyers get paid to worry . . . I am worried . . . and I am not even getting paid to do it.

The other reason why I am writing this is one of the accused teenage boys is my next-door neighbor and close friend. I have watched him grow up the last seven years, seen him get his first puppy and bring it to my house all the time. I have seen him put out bird feeders on his deck each spring. He and his brother took care of my house and property during Hurricane Irene when I was away. I have been relieved to know that this boy (now teenager) and his brother were there, next door, ready to help me fix the outdoor lamps and dig me out of the snow. He never asks for anything in return, and he is always polite and cheerful. He sets a good example for my children and has allowed them to take toys from his tag sale for free. So the kids and I drop off pies for this particular teenager because teenage boys must love pies, right?

My point is not to focus on the details of my own experience with one of the Rye teenagers allegedly involved in these hazing incidents but, rather, to remind you that many of us know these boys personally. Many of us know boys who may get into trouble next year or the year after. Any and all of our children may encounter some difficulty down the road. So may we all try to remember that the purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate the kids and prevent them from becoming repeat offenders? (They will face more "punishment" than you can even imagine while they are going through the criminal justice system). Moreover, this goal of rehabilitation is to be invoked if the juveniles are found to be guilty in a court of law.

Believe it or not, the juvenile system can and does work when it is followed properly. So why are we not demanding that it be followed with our Rye teenage boys? Why aren’t we closing in as a community to protect both the victims and the charged boys from backlash, to keep the media out (or at least redirect the media to our community efforts to solve the hazing problem), and to help all of these families heal and face the overwhelming legal hurdles ahead of them?  Did you notice that our Rye teenage boys have been charged as adults with felonies as well as misdemeanors? They are in the hands of the District Attorney’s Office now. So it is up to the rest of us to support them and help them get through this criminal law process, to love and forgive them, and to rehabilitate them if they are found to be in need of such rehabilitation. Why did we all move to this community if we are not now capable of following these goals?

Why is it that we have not called upon prominent local defense attorneys and/or prosecutors who live in Rye to educate our teenagers about hazing and drug offenses before they happened? Why is it that people wait until there is an emergency to call upon lawyers, particularly criminal lawyers? Why not use these attorneys proactively to educate our teenagers about juvenile offenses during school meetings? This really should have been done long ago.

I know that mine is not a popular or welcomed opinion. Rather, mine is a cautious opinion because I fear this situation in Rye could get even "worse." So I strongly urge all of you to proceed with caution. I strongly urge all of you to proceed with forgiveness. And I strongly urge all of you to proceed with the unity we all have in our “marriage” to Rye . . . For better or for worse.

About Diana McBaine-Cook, Esq.

Diana McBaine-Cook, Esq. received her undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1988 with a double major in History and Political Science; she received a Master's Degree from Oxford University in History and Political Theory; she then received her law degree from Columbia University in 1994.  Ms. McBaine-Cook was a Federal Law Clerk to the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of New York, Thomas C. Platt, from 1994 to 1995; and she was a member of the Department of Justice Summer Honors Program in Washington D.C. for two consecutive summers.   Ms. McBaine-Cook worked as an associate at Rogers & Wells (now Clifford Chance) and then Kronish, Lieb, Weiner and Hellman, LLP, both of which are Manhattan firms.  Her prior publications include: Co-Author of American Bar Association, Tort and Insurance Practice Section, "Zealous Advocate or Officer of the Court ?" (Fall 1999 Ed.).


  1. These aren’t my boys. My boy would have been the victim. My sympathy lies with the younger children who were beaten and violated and humiliated. I am “extremely concerned about the mental health stresses to these boys (not to mention their families) …”
    You’re a defense attorney. I get that one of the perps is your neighbor and he likes puppies and birdies and pies. So help him.
    For too long in our society when incidents like this occurred the record shows that a community’s sympathies were inevitability with the perpetrators, the popular boys, the athletes. Finally the victims of abuse, of bullying, of violence are gaining some long overdue attention, and you want to turn back the clock?

  2. …and as in a marriage, if there’s abuse you report it and do something about it. You just don’t let anybody beat the crap out of you out “for better or for worse”.

  3. rye mom – guilty as charged. I am mocking the hand wringing over the stress these “children” are under. I haven’t gotten in to whether they should be charged as adults, I’ve said that repeatedly. I don’t care about that as I have many other things more important to think about.
    I do care about victims’ rights, and its a sad commentary on our greater society that its taken children committing suicide, something that used to be rare thankfully, before the impact of shunning and bullying and “hazing” is taken seriously.
    I do call attention to the popular boys issue, because a dear friend, someone whom I admire, spoke to me about one of the boys – about what a “good kid” he is. Then here we have someone else talking about a “child” who likes puppies.
    What we’re forgetting is that the much younger and most likely smaller children beaten – not “hazed” but beaten – most likely are good kids too. They most likely like puppies and all good things. I want to keep the attention on the victims.
    This is a subject about which I’ve done much research. I’ve even lectured on this subject as the mother of a child who I can safely say would NOT be involved in these circumstances. It’s not arrogance, it’s reality. My son has autism and can’t go out without an adult, my husband or me, accompanying him.
    I come from a high school which was ranged from working class to poor. We didn’t have doctors’ kids or Wall Street money. The athletes, my crowd, were far from perfect but they’d more likely be involved in fighting with another team across town than tormenting younger kids. We had beer on the football field, Jack Daniels at parties and lots of wrecked cars and fist fights so I’m not idealizing the way I grew up, but we didn’t have anything like this.
    Bias, by the way, is a pre-disposition that doesn’t take into account evidence. There is evidence here. I don’t consider my siding with the victims biased in light of that evidence. But, ryemom, I appreciate you calling on me to defend my remarks. I can and I will. Thank you.

  4. Ok…here is a question for Charmian, Rye Mom, Jimmy, Matt, Need Change and Amy.

    Could each of you post — given what you know and believe at this moment — what you feel appropriate pinishment should be? It would be interesting to see your thoughts. And no comments — just penalties.

    And I would have asked Tedc, but I’m sure he would have French go to jail for this!!! 😉

    And again. No commentary, just penalties.

    Looking forward to seeing this.

  5. Charmian-

    I grew up in a town just like you. In a world just like you describe. I am not going to put words in your mouth or ascribe thoughts to you that might not be accurate, but what I meant by bias is a distinct anger toward those who are perceived as entitled. It was the way you were mocking the letter that drew me to this conclusion. I apologize if I was incorrect.

    Like I said in my other post…until I read this letter, I too, was blind with rage and feeling exceptionally unempathetic to the young men who committed this crime. What that letter did for me was woke me up to the fact that these kids ARE products of Rye, and something we are doing as a community has enabled this horrid event to occur. It is easy to vilify the kids and their parents, because then the rest of us can continue on with our lives without having to do any difficult self-reflection: as we are so certain it could never be OUR kids. Yes, I understand your personal situation precludes this as a possibility. But I am speaking generally. And I don’t think stopping to consider these questions takes sides or in anyway makes excuses for the “perps”. I just think we need to be real and not be fools enough to think that once these kids get drummed out of town, our problems with bullying are solved.

  6. Avg citizen-I profess total ignorance when it comes to the criminal justice system. But these boys are juveniles and I think they should be treated as such. I also think hazing is being used way too generously, as I see this as an assault. If they have never committed a crime or caused trouble before, and the accusations are true, I’d like to see them receive 100s of hours of community service that would contribute to empathy development, as well as probation. I also think the school district should create a clear and decisive action plan regarding how it will handle these kinds of events in the future.

  7. The kids names should have never been released and I think the parents and their lawyers should look into why the county police did such a thing. I say alleged because you are innocent until proven guilty in this country and not the other way around some of you forget that here.

  8. Need Change, if you are not a minor, the arrest is public info. And believe it or not, Youthful Offender status can only be granted by a judge, so it is sort of like a Catch-22. When you are arrested, the info is public but then a judge can grant YO status and the case is sealed. Sounds like shutting the barn door after the horse has left!

  9. Average Citizen –

    Like Ryemom, I’m not involved in the criminal justice system, but… if I were responsible for meting out punishment, it would be 1) suspension from school 2) a number of hours of community service (75-100) 3) banned from athletics for one season 4) mandatory pyschological counseling/ anger management, and 5) a public apology to the town for embarrassing all of Rye.

  10. Matt,

    You need to get off this “RYE” kick you are on…..this is not about the “best interest of Rye”,
    these kids do not owe “RYE” an apology….this is about 6 individuals, children whom have made a grave mistake…the last thing any of these kids need is the pressure of paying Rye back!!!

    I bleed Rye and I am not in the least bit embarrassed and expect no apology as I am sure many will agree!!!

  11. Avg. thank you for explaining that for me. Just interesting these kids names were released. I think everything Diana wrote is accurate and I think having these kids names published is unneeded stress. Yes they should and will face punishment. But having your name and face pasted everywhere and press in your face as a kid. And no these kids owe no apology. They didn’t do anything to me.

  12. Rye Mom – you were incorrect. I’d spend more time explaining because your questions seem genuine but it’s too weird doing that with someone who could be a Rye Dad for all I know. I get anonymity and there are dozens of legitimate reasons for not wanting your name out there so I’m not blaming you, it’s just weird not knowing to whom I’m “explaining”.
    So the short answer is, I’m not really angry about this now. The response by the community in general has been heartening, surprisingly so, if anything.
    We just disagree I guess about this letter, because it certainly didn’t provoke me to open my eyes or anything. Then again I wasn’t blind with rage to begin with. I’ve been aware of, and dealing with, this subject for years. If it were my son, I would be blind with rage, but it isn’t. My sympathies however, remain with the victims. The “divorce” theme was mildly annoying, among other things. You didn’t think so?

  13. Charmian-

    I understand. I think it is brave to put your name out in this forum but I am just not comfortable with it. I am indeed a Rye mother with 3 kids at Midland.

    Anyway. I was responding to your initial post that seemed to take umbrage that someone was speaking on behalf of the kids who committed this act. That, combined with the mocking tone = anger to me. I guess I misread. I will bow out of this forum now because verbal jousting is not my forte!

    I always admire how you hold your own in this crowd.

  14. Thank you rye mom – when you put it that way, your initial read on it was probably accurate. I did say I didn’t want the clock turned back rather… emphatically. It just isn’t a more global bias or anger toward popular kids or athletes or whatever.
    By the way, I think you hold your own just fine – seriously. The dialogue this incident has engendered is the silver lining in my mind. I include you in that statement.

  15. Fear of something is why people do not write their real names and choose to be anonymous. Fear. It is not a comfortable feeling. It is the same feeling that all those eighth graders were feeling on Freshman Friday. And in previous years where there may have been eighth graders finding this ‘tradition’ amusing, there have been plenty more eighth graders feeling fear. Peer pressure is a very strong element. It can make these children lie about being scared. It can prevent these children from showing their own injuries to their parents. Fear is there and everyone can pretend that it isn’t. I have no respect for anyone who attacks people on any of these blogs without signing their name, It is weak and cowardly…….just like bullying.

  16. Anybody ever figure out why Diana McBaine-Cook never said anything in support of the victims? Is it because they don’t require legal representation by the accused do? Regardless, her post is irresponsible in that it does acknowledge that the victims are the ones who were hurt – the damage done to the accused is a function of their misdeeds. Diana – please follow up your polemic with a statement that reflects the damage done to the victims.

  17. As with most issues, there are always two views. As these boys are from Rye, it would automatically be expected that they should have known better. But just because one if from an affluent community, doesn’t mean that they get the nurturing and education in ethical treatment of others. The victims are the ones who suffered, and the boys responsible need to deal with their actions. However, in these rather charged times, all too often it is the objective to point fingers quickly at people from certain communities.
    Yes, this is an issue between the accused and the victims. The DA’s office will have to address this and hopefully not for personal gain. As for it being a Rye issue, just because someone is a neighbor, doesn’t mean that they are vindicated of their crimes. I grew up in NYC…. need I say more.

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