For years, fraternities and sororities have followed the tradition of "hazing" their incoming members as a way to initiate them into the exclusive group. In recent years, the intensity of these acts have made it into the public eye, and it isn't pretty for those who participate. It has come to the attention of Texas lawmakers that there must be a consequence for such inhumane actions towards their own peers.
What is "hazing"?
According to the Texas Education Code, hazing "means any intentional knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off campus of an educational institution, by one person alone or acting with others, directed against a student that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization whose members are students at an educational institution."
A number of specific actions are considered to be hazing, including:
- Any type of physical brutality (whipping, branding, beating, etc.)
- Any activity that threatens the body of permanent damage (sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme weather, confinement to a small place)
- Forced consumption of any substance that would cause unreasonable harm to the student (food, liquor, drugs)
- Any action that causes unreasonable emotional or mental distress. Something that adversely affects the mental health or dignity of the student or discourages the student from entering or remaining registered in an educational institution, or that may reasonably be expected to cause a student to leave the organization or the institution
- Any action that goes directly against the code of conduct for any particular school
Texas law charges both personal and organizational offenses based on the level of involvement.
If a person is in anyway participating in, encouraging or is even knowledgeable of extremely harmful hazing, they are subject to a personal hazing charge. Failing to report is considered a Class B Misdemeanor. Further, if the hazing does not cause direct bodily harm, it is considered a Class B Misdemeanor as well. In the most extreme circumstances of bodily harm toward the hazing victim, the "hazer" will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. Much like other, non-hazing crimes, if the ultimate cost of the victim is death, the consequence is indefinite jail time, determined by a jury in a court of law.
If the entire organization, or any section including pledges, members or alumni, is found to blame for the harm of another student in light of hazing, the charges are at a misdemeanor level. The organization as a whole will be charged between $5,000 and $10,000. If those actions cause a personal injury, extreme damages or irreplaceable loss (of reputation, job, school admittance) a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than double the amount lost
or expenses incurred because of the injury, damage, or loss will be charged.
For those who participate in hazing as a "tradition" for their organization, is important to remember that "consent" of the hazed is not a defense and the consequences can be irreparable. In most situations, "consent" is forced or unreasonably expected to the point of fear from the victim. Also, the school usually will expel the student or organization who committed the hazing offenses in addition to being charged in a court of law.
If you or someone you know was involved in a hazing incident, contact a criminal defense lawyer at Kyle Law Firm in the San Marcos, New Braunfels and Seguin area for a free consultation. Victims of hazing can also be addressed by a personal injury lawyer at the Kyle Law Firm. It is important to report any knowledge you have of hazing in order to avoid future charges or be considered an accomplice.