Towson cheerleading squad suspended for alleged hazing

Towson University's championship cheerleading squad has been suspended from competition for the academic year over an alleged hazing incident, school officials confirmed Thursday.

The school declined to provide details, instead issuing a statement that said the Office of Student Conduct and Civility Education learned of the hazing allegations Aug. 6 and "immediately launched a full investigation," which led to the suspension that took effect last Friday.

"Hazing in any form will not be tolerated at Towson University. We hold high expectations for all of our students and their conduct as leaders, both on and off campus," Deb Moriarty, Towson University's vice president for student affairs, said in the statement. "Out of concern for students' privacy and their rights to due process that includes their right to appeal the suspension, it would be inappropriate for the university to comment further."

Many schools have adopted a zero-tolerance approach to hazing in the aftermath of several violent incidents, including the fatal hazing of a drum major at Florida A&M; University in 2011.

But suspending an entire team is unusual in the sport of cheerleading, according to Jim Lord, executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators.

"I have never heard of a whole team getting suspended," Lord said. "That is pretty rare, maybe unheard of." He said most suspensions involve one or two students or a coach and are for infractions of university rules.

The suspension was first reported in the school newspaper, The Towerlight, which said the team is appealing the suspension. The school confirmed only that the team had the right to appeal.

Head cheerleading coach Edy Pratt said she had been instructed not to comment on the issue.

It was unclear whether there are academic consequences for the students or how many were involved.

In April, the Towson Tigers squad won the All Girl Division 1 category of the National Cheerleaders Association's Collegiate Cheerleading Championship.

Baltimore Sun reporter Liz Bowie contributed to this article.

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