Going through an initiation process is often something people expect when they join a club or organization. Perhaps this is truer in the collegiate world than anywhere else. Unfortunately, under the guise of building comradery and trust, some organizations resort to hazing and sometimes with deadly results.
If your child is a student at a Florida college or university, you should be aware that this state has some of the most stringent laws against hazing than any other state. Recent tragic events on campuses across the country have prompted lawmakers to toughen these laws even more.
The consequences of hazing
Hazing has long been part of campus life, particularly but not exclusively in the fraternities and sororities. Members of these organizations often went through similar experiences and feel it is their right to subject newcomers to the same treatment. This may include forcing a pledge to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, inflicting physical punishment, depriving a pledge of food, drink, or sleep, or using tactics of humiliation.
Those who organize these events may see them as fun and an important part of the history of the organization. However, a string of hazing deaths in recent years has brought this topic to the attention of the public. Now states that dismissed hazing as a matter for college administrators are enacting laws making such actions criminal offenses. Florida’s hazing laws include the following factors:
- Hazing has been a misdemeanor charge since 2005.
- If someone becomes injured or dies during a hazing event, participants may face felony charges.
- A felony conviction for hazing can result in years in prison.
- Even if the victim of hazing is a current member of the organization and not a pledge, the law still applies.
- Hazing events that occur off campus may still result in administrative discipline and criminal charges.
- If your child is an organizer of a hazing event where someone suffers injuries, your child may face charges even if he or she is not present during the hazing.
In addition to potential criminal charges, hazing may lead to disciplinary actions by the school, including expulsion and a permanent mark on your child’s academic record. This could seriously hinder the plans and opportunities your child may have for the future. Your child has the right to legal representation for both criminal and administrative processes. You would be wise to reach out to a skilled Florida attorney who has extensive experience in these areas.