For the past four weeks, Grant High School in Northeast Portland has been under a cloud of scrutiny and shame. Four of its students face criminal investigation for allegedly assaulting two of their junior varsity boys basketball teammates in the locker room.
One assault, police say, may have been sexual: A player is accused of trying to stick his finger in the anus of a boy held down by teammates—a practice known as G-ing.
The media have lit up with speculation about how widespread this practice has been, with parents understandably concerned and school officials trying to control the damage with cautious statements—or silence.
But to a large extent, Grant High students haven't been heard.
WW spoke to nearly two-dozen Grant students, including athletes and friends of the alleged attackers and their victims.
The practice of G-ing elicits disgust and mystification from many students—while others shrug it off as no big deal, telling WW that G-ing is an open secret at Grant: The closer your social circle is to the football team, the more you hear about it.
Students who say they have previously heard of G-ing say it's not a hazing ritual. Instead, it's used by some older players to enforce a pecking order.
But students worry about the stigma their school now carries and say they feel Grant has been singled out for something they think has happened at other schools. "It's not at all as it's been described," says one Grant football player, a senior. "It's not sexual. It's more because it's a weak spot."
School officials, including Grant Principal Vivian Orlen, declined repeated requests to talk to WW, as did varsity football coach Diallo Lewis, who has led the team since 2005.
On Jan. 12, four JV basketball players allegedly attacked two of their teammates in the Grant locker room after a game against Centennial, more than a month and a half into the season. Their coach, Jon Blumenauer, had left the locker room, and someone turned off the lights.
One player said teammates held him down while another tried to insert a finger in his anus. His compression shorts stopped them. The other player reported being beaten up by teammates as he tried to leave the locker room after the first attack.
G-ing is a widely known term among students and isn't a play on the name of Grant High. Instead, it's a mocking reference to stimulating a woman's G spot.
People familiar with the case say the four boys involved in the attack are African-American; the two alleged victims are white. Three of the students involved in the attack were suspended and have returned to school; a fourth has been expelled for the school year. All four have been kicked off the JV basketball team.
Portland police opened a sex-crime case, and said they have expanded their investigation after hearing reports that other students may have experienced similar attacks in the past.
Students told WW they don't think the incident was prompted by race. Others say they feel sorry for the boys who got in trouble, believing they were caught up in locker-room clowning that got out of control.
Ellie Johnson, a senior, says she has spoken to basketball players who say it was "all in good fun. Prior to this experience, the victims would have considered [the alleged attackers] friends. It's just boys being boys.... But I don't want to underplay what happened."
Fewer than half the students WW spoke to say they had not heard about G-ing before the news broke about the police investigation. These students tended to have little or no contact with athletes, and many say they were disgusted by the reports.
"I think it's a huge deal," says Anna Langston, 17, a junior. "It made me so mad I wanted to throw up."
But more than half the students say they had heard about the practice. Students who aren't directly involved in athletics say they had heard of G-ing as if it were an urban myth—strange tales from the locker room they couldn't be sure were true.
"We'd heard about G-ing, but we thought it was a joke," says Alex Lygo, 16, a sophomore. "This is the first time it's ever come to light and been like, 'This actually happens.ââ
Katie Feller, 15, a sophomore, says, "In my health class, there was a guy it happened to. He was like, âItâs no big deal, itâs happened to me.ââ
Students say they were asked to talk about their feelings in English classes. "People are still talking about it," Feller says. "A lot of people thought the media blew it out of proportion."
Feller and other students say most students feel safe at Grant.
Portland Public Schools discipline records obtained by WW show that only two students were suspended or expelled at Grant last year for incidents involving harassment, hazing or intimidation. That's down from 15 cases six years ago.
Teri Geist, the principal at Beverly Cleary School, a K-8 that feeds into Grant, says she knows many students have taken the incident seriously. But Geist—who says she's talking as a community member, not a principal—says too many others have been cavalier.
"If you are a kid at Grant and this has happened to you," Geist says, "and you've heard others say 'it's no big deal,' why would you speak up if you are feeling threatened and thereâs a âno-tellâ culture among the kids?â