College can be frightening for many teenagers and young adults. Oftentimes, it is the first time they have been away from their parents for a significant period of time.
Wanting acceptance by a group of their peers is natural, especially when in a new place and feeling isolated from family. However, when the traditions for bonding cross the line into hazing, there can be devastating consequences.
What is hazing?
Estimations state that over 50% of college students experience some kind of hazing. Any reckless or intentional act committed by one or more students against another student, for the purpose of initiation or membership into an organization can qualify as hazing. This is especially true if the acts involve physical brutality or forced consumption of a substance.
Things like sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme weather conditions and inflicting emotional or mental distress may also qualify.
What are the legal consequences?
In Texas, there does not have to be an injury for the events to classify as illegal hazing. Incidents that do not cause serious bodily harm are still considered misdemeanors, punishable by up to 180 days in jail. If a participant did sustain serious bodily injury, the sentence can increase to one year.
Deaths caused by hazing are uncommon but not unheard of. Students who commit hazing that results in death could face felony charges and up to two years in prison.
There is a line between establishing traditions of initiation and performing acts of hazing. Remember to keep activities safe for all involved.