Hazing is a familiar term among Greek organizations, but is often overlooked in high schools and middle schools. Between sports, band, cheerleading, and other organizations, hazing can go unnoticed. Hazing can be traumatic and dangerous. New laws and regulations make hazing against the law — and hold both students and faculty accountable. Here’s what schools need to know about hazing laws.


What Is Hazing?

Hazing is the physical or emotional damage done to or by someone in order to gain membership into an organization. Traditions are always important to keep up morale among students. Any tradition that doesn’t physically or emotionally harm a student, faculty member, or outside party can still be performed. However, hazing should not — and cannot — be ignored. 


Is Hazing Against the Law?

There are anti-hazing laws in 45 states across the U.S. This includes all educational facilities. Each state recognizes and punishes hazing individually. However, most acknowledge the act as a misdemeanor. Moreover, off-campus hazing is still illegal. 


Consequences for Hazing

In some states, hazing counts as a Class C misdemeanor and includes the removal of all financial aid. However, other states determine the punishment by the harm committed. For example, North Dakota classifies hazing in two punishable categories. In North Dakota, if physical harm is evident, then the guilty party faces a Class A misdemeanor. Non-physical harm, on the other hand, is legally a Class B misdemeanor.


Identifying Hazing

First, understand that hazing isn’t exclusive to Greek organizations or sports. Then, watch for general signs of alcohol abuse, extreme fatigue, and abnormal student behavior. If a student or group of students complain of hazing, take it seriously. Also, when there’s suspicion of hazing, document all reported incidents and pursue an investigation.


Preventing Hazing

Paying close attention to student organizations can help in preventing hazing. Make sure advisers are aware of what counts as hazing. This can mean having specific anti-hazing policies. Also, provide other outlets for students to feel involved in their new memberships. Team building exercises or supervised events can help them bond in place of hazing.


Text by Sarah Vice


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