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Bridges4Kids LogoCommentary: Michigan Needs a Law Banning Hazing Incidents
The Detroit News, February 28, 2004
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A 12-year-old Northville boy and a 16-year-old Detroit teen say they were seriously injured after being hazed. All the teen wanted was to be part of his band’s fraternity. The 12-year-old wanted to be part of the football team.

The parents of the Detroit youngster are suing the Detroit Public Schools for $5 million, but the mental and physical abuse that accompanies hazing ought to be outlawed. It is too dangerous to be tolerated — and utterly unnecessary.

State Sens. Michelle McManus, R-Leelanau, and Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, introduced an anti-hazing bill last October. It was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review and should become law.

Michigan is one of only seven states without anti-hazing laws.

The proposed bill defines hazing as “an intentional or reckless act ... that endangers the mental and physical health or safety of a person seeking to be initiated into or holding office” in any organization. Hazing is usually associated with school and college organizations, such as fraternities, sororities, teams or social clubs.

The bill includes a clear definition of the physical and psychological aspects of hazing — ranging from physical abuse to public humiliation to the forced consumption of alcohol, drugs or food.

Regardless of whether a victim voluntarily agreed to be hazed, under the proposed law, those convicted of hazing could face punishments that include prison sentences ranging from three years to 20 years and up to $10,000 in fines.

Certainly, having an anti-hazing law won’t stop all instances of abusive treatment. Illinois, for example, has such a statute. Nevertheless, in an upper-class Chicago suburb last year, about 100 high school teens, mostly girls, were a part of a hazing melee.

After at least one keg of beer, the junior girls were videotaped being showered and smeared with pig intestines, paint thinner, paint, household garbage, mud and human waste by the senior girls, as well as beaten with fists and buckets.

But the videotape prompted the Illinois school district involved to expel a number of students, and more than two dozen were charged with various offenses.

It is true that injuries inflicted during hazing could lead to charges under other parts of the criminal code, but the law is a teacher; it declares what society will not tolerate. Michigan needs an anti-hazing law that holds adults and students responsible for the harmful initiation rites that remain a senseless part of some school organizations.

    

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