All of us have likely seen or been involved in some form of hazing over the course of our lives. Indeed, making the new guy or gal earn his or her stripes is tradition in school, fraternities and sororities, sports, the military, and even the workplace. Some would say it helps build a sense of cohesiveness, and I think some traditions certainly do. For example, making the rookies carry the water establishes team hierarchy and order in athletics as well as a sense of contribution on behalf of the newbies. The spectrum of hazing, however, ranges from constructive to innocent horseplay to violence and humiliation and even to death. In fact, most states now have laws on the books making hazing illegal and stiff punishments to back those laws up.
In the group dynamic, particularly when young people are involved, hazing can become wildly dangerous and quickly get out of control. Most of us have probably seen footage of the high school junior girls of a wealthy Chicago suburb being beaten and covered with feces by the senior girls in what was supposed to be a long-standing tradition of innocent hazing surrounding a powder puff football game. More tragically, however, most of us have probably heard a story about a college freshman in one of our higher learning institutions die from hazing. Recently, students at numerous colleges and universities have died from alcohol poisoning, water intoxication, DUI motor vehicle accidents, and suicide, all as a result of hazing. Even more students have been injured, expelled, incarcerated, or disqualified from participating in athletics because of their involvement in hazing-related activities. For an excellent video compiling numerous unfortunate hazing cases and that is intended to educate all of us about hazing go to http://inmemoryofjack.com/ and click on the video link.
Hazing is illegal and civil liability can reach a wide spectrum of people involved or who have the power to prevent it, including fraternities and sororities, their national chapters/organizations, school administrators, students, coaches, athletes, colleges and universities, employers, co-workers, and parents to name a few. No more can we endorse the attitude that hazing is harmless or not dangerous because it may be based on long-standing tradition.
If you or someone you know is participating in hazing or being hazed, you have an obligation to report it and try to stop it. If you or someone you know has suffered injury or death as a result of hazing you should not hesitate to contact a civil justice attorney to impose civil liability on those responsible.