The Hazards of Hazing
To date, 44 states have adopted statutes against hazing, making hazing a criminal offense. Traditionally, hazing has been considered a rite of passage as part of entering into college organizations. While deaths sometimes occurred (usually as the result of alcohol), these events were thought to be rare, isolated incidents, unlikely to reoccur. We now know that these beliefs are not true.
The organization Stop Hazing reports 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year; and that 47% of students entering college have already experienced hazing. 55% of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations experience hazing.
As lawyers for hazing victims, it is our role to seek to hold accountable school districts, colleges and universities, Greek organizations, other entities and organizations, and individuals responsible for hazing on behalf of our clients and their families.
Hazing Should Never Be Tolerated, Nor Should it be Seen as “Part of the College Experience”
In order to protect our sons and daughters at schools and universities, the culture of hazing approval and acceptance must be undone. Fortunately, our society is making positive steps in this direction; unfortunately, many students are still injured, and sometimes killed, every year due to hazing.
We now know that that when hazing is permitted, deaths and serious injuries are not isolated and rare occurrence of accidents, but rather they are foreseeable and entirely preventable. Hazing is not a game, it is serious and risky, particularly when it involves alcohol, physical violence, sleep deprivation, and other acts that physically and emotionally tax a person’s endurance.
Most colleges, the Greek system, and university sports clubs and organizations have adopted no-hazing rules designed to stop hazing and the resulting death and injury of the past. While these efforts are well-intentioned, unfortunately hazing still exists on college campuses, and deaths and significant injuries still result (such as the Florida A&M University band member who died in 2011 after allegedly being physically assaulted).
Hazing and New York Law
Hazing is a crime under the New York State Penal Law. The New York anti-hazing statues are as follows:
120.16 Hazing in the first degree.
A person is guilty of hazing in the first degree when, in the course of another person’s initiation into or affiliation with any organization, he intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of physical injury to such other person or a third person and thereby causes such injury.
Hazing in the first degree is a class A misdemeanor.
120.17 Hazing in the second degree.
A person is guilty of hazing in the second degree when, in the course of another person’s initiation or affiliation with any organization, he intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of physical injury to such other person or a third person.
Hazing in the second degree is a violation.
Thus people who engage in hazing can be prosecuted criminally in New York.
Civil Liability for Hazing
In addition to criminal liability, hazing may also result in civil liability against individuals orchestrating hazing, group leaders, group advisors, and the organization under which the hazing occurred. Parties found liable for directly participating in hazing or allowing it to occur may be held liable for compensatory and punitive damages.
Institutional Negligence for Hazing
Institutions such as schools and universities may also be held liable for hazing injuries and death when the hazing is committed by organizations operating under school sponsorship. These organizations can include fraternities, sports teams, clubs, or virtually any organization.
Schools and universities must be held accountable for hazing when they permit it to occur. This is the only way to change a course of conduct involving indifference and turning a blind eye to hazing practices.
How Our Firm Help Those Who Have Been Subject to Hazing
Hazing in all forms must be stopped.
As part of our representation of hazing victims and their families, we initiate legal action against individuals, universities and colleges, the Greek system at colleges, those responsible for sports teams and organizations that engage in hazing, and all others who we believe bear legal responsibility for the hazing injuries and death of our clients. Those who are responsible should be held fully accountable for all injuries, death, and other damages that they have caused. In representing our clients who have suffered from hazing, we seek to additionally send a strong message on their behalf that hazing is intolerable.
If you or your son or daughter has been the victim of hazing, we can help. Please call us for a free, no-obligation consultation so we can learn about your case. Once we understand the facts and circumstances, we can explain what actions can be taken to in furtherance of seeking full compensation for the injuries and damages that have been suffered.
We represent clients victimized by hazing on a contingency fee basis. This means that if we accept your case, there is no fee to us unless and until we recover compensation for you.