It’s already back-to-school season: High school pre-season sports practice is in full swing and in just a few weeks, colleges and universities will be welcoming new and returning students to campus. And it’s also that time of year when parents get most worried about their students’ well-being 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 or bullying? 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.
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 has defined hazing as:
Sec. 5 Hazing. A person commits hazing who knowingly requires the performance of any act by a student or other person in school, college, university, or other education institutions of this state for the purpose of induction or admission into any group, organization, or society associated or connected with that institution if:
a. the act is not sanctioned or authorized by that educational
b. 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.
1. 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?
2. Does the national fraternity or sorority have an anti-hazing policy or provide campus seminars to prevent hazing?
3. Discuss the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and the dangers of driving under the influence with your child.
4. Discuss what hazing is and how to avoid it with your child.
5. Make sure your child knows how to confidentially report hazing at their school should the worst happen.
Also check out: https://hazingprevention.org/
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. Fortunately, many schools have confidential reporting and online resources that discuss the issue (see our list of resources below).
Depending on who is involved and what has occurred, you may want to discuss the matter with an attorney.
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 our office on 312-223-1700 for a free confidential consultation if you have questions about a potential hazing or bullying incident.