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Are “swirlies” really a thing in schools, or were they ever?


A school prank involving holding a person upside down over a toilet bowl, submerging their head, then flushing water. Wiktionary

If I had ever had my head/face go anywhere near a toilet bowl, I would never recover from that. It sounds absolutely surreal. I cannot believe that this is actually a thing done routinely or often or even sometimes in schools.

Wouldn't any kids involved in such a "prank" (extreme torture and jeopardizing somebody's life, I'd call it) face criminal charges and their parents would get involved and they would go to some kind of court and possibly jail/juvie?

Isn't this just a myth created and perpetuated by movies? A gross over-exaggeration of reality? I know that there exist bullies, and even violent such, but even getting punched in the face sounds less horrible than being held upside-down and have your face inside a toilet bowl, with everything that entails from a hygiene perspective and the real risk of them dropping your legs so you fall down and snap your neck, not to mention drowning from it.

I refuse to believe that this particular "prank" was/is really a thing. It sounds too improbable, dangerous and plain disgusting to possibly be real.


@PieterGeerkens shows that dangerous, abusive physical bullying between students is not rare. But are "swirlies" per se a common practice? When and where did they start? It does not seem that there has been any systematic study of "swirlies" historically.

So far the only documented example I could find of a student reporting knowledge of the practice actually occurring (beyond mere threats) is from the Orange County Register (California) published June 30, 2003 (found via LexisNexis).

Florencia Krochik, 17, and Andrea Savopolos, 16, both juniors, received Ambassador of Peace Awards from the Violence Prevention Coalition of Orange County, the Building Bridges Award from the Orange County Human Relations Commission and the National Schools of Character Promising Practices Citation from the Character Education Partnership.

[… ]

Q: What did you see going on at school?

Andrea: Basically, normal things that you see at every school, but that people just think are a normal rite of passage of high school.

In seventh and eighth grades there's more physical violence, like when they put somebody in a trash can or like do a swirlie in the bathrooms (that's when they like put their heads into the toilets or something). That's physical violence bullying.

Even here, it isn't clear that Andrea witnessed it happening directly, just that she believed it was really occurring around her. I suspect there may be many other examples, but the threat does seem far more common than the follow through.

EDIT: Here is a more direct example, documented in this study published in 2007. The quote is from an 17 year old boy interviewed directly by the authors.

I was a victim of bullying for two years in gyms. [… ] One day they put my head in the toilet and gave me a “swirly.” When I told the gym teacher he told me to “toughen up.” I just stopped going to gym after that.


Given the recent scandal in Toronto at St. Michael's College School, where far worse was performed in the name of "light hazing", I don't see how one can ignore that the ritual described has undoubtedly happened frequently in the past when school authorities and teachers have lost control over their charges.

Police have issued a warning that the video meets the definition of child pornography, and that anyone possessing a copy should delete it immediately.

Sources who have seen the short video say it shows two students holding or using the broomstick while a much larger group of players, both white and black, cheered and shouted encouragement.

I will not quote any further gruesome details here. Read the article your self, or Google it further, if you have the stomach for it.

As regards personal experience (or close knowledge), I have two incidents:

  • One student tied by his necktie to a hot radiator and abandoned to his own devices for over half an hour.

  • One student being bullied and brow-beaten into dumping a load into the pocket face-cloth of another student (me, as it happens). To the credit of the first student, as soon as the bullies disappeared he cleaned the face cloth as thoroughly as he could, and arranged for me to be promptly warned about what had happened.


Watch the video: Οι πιο εντυπωσιακές σβούρες Lego (January 2022).