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Hazing is not all fun and games

Like many Maryland parents, you have worries and concerns as your child heads back to campus for a new semester. College students will have many important decisions to make, some of which may affect the course of their lives. These decisions do not include merely which courses to take or majors to declare, but which organizations to align with, how they will behave and who will influence their actions.

If your son or daughter belongs to an organization on campus, such as an athletic team, fraternity or sorority, or recreational club, he or she may have to choose whether to participate in initiation rituals for new members. These rituals often involve acts of hazing. Hazing is a crime, and involvement in such practices may result in consequences that can jeopardize your child's future.

Consequences of hazing

You have likely seen news stories in recent years that show the worst-case scenario in a hazing situation. When an initiation or club activity gets so out of hand that a student suffers critical or fatal injuries, it raises the nation's attention. Citizens band together to enact changes, and lawmakers fight for new rules and penalties. This is happening in relation to hazing.

Maryland laws prohibit hazing of any kind, and a conviction for hazing can result in steep fines and the potential for jail time. Additionally, institutions like the University of Maryland have strict policies against hazing that may lead to your child's suspension, loss of scholarships, eviction from campus housing and other consequences that may disrupt your child's academic path.

It wasn't that bad

Perhaps you remember your own days of hazing during college. While you may want to shrug off hazing behaviors as a rite of passage through generations, you cannot deny that hazing can involve dangerous and even deadly actions. Such actions may include these and many others:

  • Pressuring someone to consume alcohol or drugs
  • Depriving someone of sleep or food
  • Forcing someone to participate in activities that are demeaning, distressing or humiliating
  • Physically harming someone, such as paddling, excessive exercise or tattooing
  • Interfering with someone's ability to study or manage academic requirements
  • Subjecting someone to psychological trauma, such as kidnapping, blindfolding or servitude

In some cases, those victims of hazing may willingly participate because they desire to belong to the organization. Nevertheless, the law does not accept this as a defense.

At many institutions, an incident of hazing may require mandatory reporting to the administration. If your student witnesses hazing but fails to report it, he or she may face disciplinary actions. In fact, your child may face allegations of hazing by simply being in the same house where the actions occur. In such cases, you would be wise to support your child with quality legal counsel with experience defending students facing legal and disciplinary procedures.

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