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It’s already back-to-school season! In just a few weeks, colleges and universities will be welcoming new and returning students to campus. Students are excited about getting back to their social groups including sports teams, student clubs, college fraternities, and sororities. And it’s also that time of year when parents get most worried about their students’ well-being for the coming school year and look for preventative hazing resources.
As parents, we all want the best for our children no matter what their age or educational level. And we can all agree that a safe educational environment is in everyone’s best interest, but what happens if your son or daughter is the victim of hazing, bullying, or harassment as they become new members of various student groups on college campuses?
In recent years, schools have done a much better job bringing awareness to hazing and bullying, but much more can still be done. Before your child starts school, no matter what their age, here’s what you need to know so you can talk to them about bullying and hazing.
A significant number of college and high school students experience some form of hazing incident when joining and participating in a fraternity, sorority, or sports team. According to the National Study of Student Hazing, 40% of college students acknowledge that hazing exists at their school. 40% report that program advisors know that hazing takes place within their organizations and do not take the steps necessary to stop it.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that many advisors themselves experienced hazing. 65% of fraternity and sorority members feel that hazing and initiation help to promote bonding, even through initiation rituals involving humiliation, sleep deprivation, alcohol abuse, sex acts, or other hazing incidents. Research shows that it isn’t a practice that builds unity, but that hazing is more about balancing power and control. In many cases, alcohol use only exacerbates the dangers to pledges and new members.
This can be a difficult question to answer. In some instances, good natured fun can pass acceptable boundaries and then it becomes hazing. Hazing can range from small isolated events to ongoing planned conduct. It can be done by an individual or group and the victim may be an individual or group.
Fortunately, in the eyes of the law, there is a definition of hazing. The Illinois Legislature under 720 ILCS 5/12C-50 has defined hazing as:
Sec. 12C-50. Hazing.
(a) A person commits hazing when he or she knowingly requires the performance of any act by a student or other person in a school, college, university, or other educational institution of this State, for the purpose of induction or admission into any group, organization, or society associated or connected with that institution, if:
(1) the act is not sanctioned or authorized by that educational institution; and
(2) the act results in bodily harm to any person.
So, this makes it clear. If another student or group of students makes your child do something as part of a group initiation that’s not sanctioned by their school and results in injury, then this is hazing. Be sure to talk with your kids about bullying and hazing before they are back on campus. Awareness of what is and isn’t okay (and what is considered illegal by the Illinois Legislature) helps prevent hazing and bullying.
The anti-hazing legislation further states the very serious consequences of hazing as:
(b) Sentence. Hazing is a Class A misdemeanor, except that hazing that results in death or great bodily harm is a Class 4 felony.
Helping your student to understand that hazing incidents are not just innocent fun can also help prevent hazing rituals. These dangerous activities can carry serious consequences when the hazing behaviors lead to bodily harm to the college students involved.
If your child is pledging to a fraternity or sorority, research the campus chapter. Is the fraternity or sorority on probation? And if it is, why?
Does the national fraternity or sorority have an anti-hazing policy or provide campus seminars to prevent hazing?
Discuss the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and the dangers of driving under the influence with your child.
Discuss what hazing is and how to avoid it with your child.
Make sure your child knows how to confidentially report hazing at their school should the worst happen.
If your child is the victim of hazing, they must report the behavior and incident. This can be more difficult than you may think.
In some instances, students may be reluctant to report inappropriate behavior because friends or classmates are involved in the inappropriate behavior. In other situations, students may fear a social stigma if they report hazing or bullying of a new member. Fortunately, many schools have confidential reporting and online resources that discuss the issue.
Depending on who is involved, what has occurred, and how seriously your student has been harmed, you may want to discuss the matter with an experienced Chicago hazing and bullying lawyer. You may be able to take legal action against the colleges, organizations, school staff, or an individual involved in harming your child in a hazing incident.
If your child has been a victim of hazing, feel free to contact our office to discuss the specifics. In Illinois, a victim of hazing does have legal remedies. Depending on the specific facts, a civil lawsuit to recover monetary damages can be appropriate. Our consultations are always free, so don’t hesitate to call today for a free confidential consultation if you have questions about a potential hazing or bullying incident.
So what does hazing look like? As a parent, there are signs of hazing that you can look out for. These hazing signs include:
Some of the signs of hazing go away as the participant is removed from the situation. For instance, bruises will heal over time. However, some of the other emotional scars and trauma from hazing could potentially impact a student for their entire life. Instead of building up sisters and brothers in the Greek system, hazing can have long term repercussions for members.