Is Hazing a Violation of Texas Law?
Hazing is prevalent in student organizations on college campuses. Although
it seems to be the most common method of initiation into organizations
such as fraternities and sororities, that doesn’t necessarily mean
hazing is allowed.
One could argue that university officials “turn a blind eye”
to hazing practices, but police officers surely don’t. Why? In Texas,
hazing is a crime.
Texas Hazing Laws
Hazing involves the following elements, which are all committed for the
purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office
in, or maintaining membership in an organization within an educational
- Any intentional, knowing, or reckless act
- The act occurs on or off the campus of an educational institution
- The act is committed by one person alone or acting with others
- The act is directed against a student
- The act endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student
A person doesn’t have to directly participate in hazing to be charged
for this offense. In Texas, a person commits hazing if they do any of
- Engages in hazing
- Solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid another in engaging in hazing
- Recklessly permits hazing to occur
- Has firsthand knowledge of the planning of a specific hazing incident involving
a student in an educational institution, and knowingly fails to report
that knowledge in writing to the dean of students or another appropriate
official of the institution
- Has firsthand knowledge that a specific hazing incident has occurred, and
knowingly fails to report that knowledge in writing to the dean of students
or another appropriate official of the institution
On the other hand, an organization such as a fraternity or sorority commits
a hazing offense if it condones or encourages hazing, or if an officer
or any combination of members, pledges, or alumni of the organization
commits or assists in the commission of hazing.
Penalties for Hazing in Texas
With all these elements in mind, let’s discuss the criminal punishments
an individual or organization could face if convicted of hazing.
- An individual who fails to report hazing commits a class B misdemeanor
punishable by up to $2,000 fines and/or up to 180 days in jail.
- Any other hazing offense committed by an individual that does not cause
serious bodily injury is also a class B misdemeanor.
- An individual who commits a hazing offense that results in serious bodily
injury will be charged with a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to
$4,000 fines and/or up to 1 year in jail.
- An organization that commits a hazing offense will be charged with a misdemeanor.
- An individual or organization that commits a hazing offense that results
in the death of another will be charged with a state jail felony, punishable
by 180 days to 2 years in jail and/or fines up to $10,000.
- An organization that commits hazing that causes personal injury, property
damage, or another loss will be fined $5,000 to no more than double the
amount lost or expenses incurred due to the injury, damage, or loss.
What Are the Impacts of Hazing?
Hazing can cause far more than embarrassment, illness, and humiliation
for the victim. In addition to those impacts, hazing victims may experience
a whole range of other effects, such as:
- Physical, emotional, and/or mental instability
- Sleep deprivation
- Loss of sense of control and empowerment
- A decline in grades and coursework
- Severed relationships with friends, significant others, and family
- Post-traumatic stress syndrome
- Loss of respect for the organization
- Loss of trust between the group members
Examples of Hazing
Hazing is unique because victims don’t necessarily feel like victims,
as they typically partake in hazing activities
voluntarily. It doesn’t help that participants are usually peer-pressured into
partaking in or committing hazing. However, hazing can be subtle, harassing,
or violent, resulting in physical, mental, and emotional harm. That’s
why it can be hard to tell whether or not a hazing activity has gone too far.
To better demonstrate this, we list some
common hazing practices below, provided by the University of Arkansas:
- Requiring new members to perform unnecessary duties not assigned to existing members
- Required calisthenics such as sit-ups or push-ups, or other forms of physical exercise
- Sleep deprivation
- The assignment of meaningless and sometimes impossible tasks
- Required “greeting” of members in a specific manner when seen on campus
- Required carrying of certain items
- Personal servitude or chores
- Lineups to interrogate, demeaning, or intimidating
- Wearing embarrassing or uncomfortable clothing
- Assigning pranks such as stealing, painting objects, or harassing other
- Forced confinement, oftentimes involving very loud music and/or the repetition
of a specific song
- Being dropped off somewhere and forced to find the way back
- Capturing or kidnapping
- Total or partial nudity
- Pushing, shoving, tackling, or any other physical contact
- Forced consumption of any liquid or food, often involving alcohol and/or
gross food combinations
- Paddling or whipping
- Branding, cutting, labeling, or shaving parts of the body
A Look at the Numbers
Hazing is widespread on university campuses, but that doesn’t mean
it goes unpunished. Statistics from
Stetson University and cited from Hazing in View: Students at Risk conducted by Elizabeth Allan, Ph.D. and Mary Madden, Ph.D. from the University
of Maine, exemplify how common hazing is:
- 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year; 47 percent of students
came to college already having experienced hazing.
- 55 percent of college students involved in clubs, teams, and organizations
- Alcohol consumption, humiliation, isolation, sleep deprivation, and sexual
acts are hazing practices common across all types of student groups.
- 40 percent of athletes who reported being involved in hazing behaviors
report that a coach or advisor was aware of the activity; 22 percent report
that the coach was involved.
- Two in five students say they are aware of hazing taking place on their
campus. More than one in five people report witnessing hazing personally.
- In 95 percent of cases where students identified their experience as hazing,
they did not report the events to campus officials.
- Nine out of ten students who have experienced hazing behavior in college
do not consider themselves to have been hazed.
- 36 percent of students say they would not report hazing primarily because
"there's no one to tell," and 27 percent feel that adults
won't handle it right.
- As of February 12, 2010, the number of recorded hazing/pledging/rushing-related
deaths in fraternities and sororities stands at 96– 90 males and
- 82 percent of deaths from hazing involve alcohol.
As you can see, hazing is everywhere. You may have heard stories about
it, experienced it yourself, or know someone who’s been involved
in hazing activities. Despite its commonality, again, hazing is a crime.
If you or a loved one are accused of hazing in Fort Worth, our attorney
can defend your rights and fight to protect your freedom and future.
To get started, contact us at (817) 591-7850!