In many college fraternities and sororities, and other organizations, hazing is a rite of passage. However, hazing is against the law. In legal terms, hazing is the abuse a student must endure to gain admittance to an organization. It includes not only physical harm, such as beating or whipping, but the mental harm that might result from forcing a student to behave in a humiliating way. It can include forcing students to drink dangerous amounts of alcohol, or even engage in some activity that is against the law.
Hazing Is a Crime
Most colleges and universities have policies against hazing. Most include penalties for anyone who hazes a student, and state laws address the issue as well. The harshness of criminal charges usually depends on whether a student suffers actual physical harm. If the student doesn't, hazing is typically a misdemeanor. If the student is hurt, the crime is a felony in most states. The severity of sentencing depends on the extent of the student's injuries.
Hazing Can Result in Civil Lawsuits
Hazing can also result in civil lawsuits. In legal terms, an injured student has a tort claim. A tort is a civil wrong that forms the basis for a lawsuit and allows the injured person to collect monetary damages from someone who caused him pain and suffering. Civil tort claims can hold the school, faculty, coaches, and other individuals responsible if they allow hazing to occur or fail to take steps to stop it.
Witnesses Have Legal Obligations
Faculty, coaches, and other students can be also be held criminally liable for hazing in some states. They're obligated to report hazing incidents to authorities. If they fail to do so, they can be charged. Some state laws include special provisions for students. They don't have to report incidents if doing so might cause their fellow students to retaliate against them.
Consent Is No Defense
The law generally makes no allowances for the fact that hazed students give at least implied consent to the abuse. In most cases, they voluntarily endure it for a chance at gaining admittance to the social organization of their choice. Their consent to hazing is not a defense. Nor is it a defense to say that the organization would have admitted the student anyway, even without consent to hazing.
An Education Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding hazing at institutions of higher education is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an education lawyer.