Hazing in High Schools: Ending the Hidden Tradition

By Dixon, Melissa | Journal of Law and Education, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Hazing in High Schools: Ending the Hidden Tradition


Dixon, Melissa, Journal of Law and Education


Hazing in High Schools: Ending the Hidden Tradition

I. Introduction

On August 14, 1996, the first day of classes at Lamar High School in Arlington, Texas, eleven juniors and seniors took six sophomores to a field away from the school campus and hazed the sophomores by paddling, painting, and urinating on them.' Hazing is normally associated with college-level organizations such as fraternities, sororities, and sports teams-not with high school activities. However, a recent survey of American high school students (the Alfred survey) showed that hazing in high school activities is more prevalent than previously thought!

The Alfred survey showed that approximately 48% of high school students responding to the survey had participated in some type of hazing incident.3 Based on this finding, it was estimated that about six million high school students in the United States were subjected to hazing during the past four years. Hazing was not limited to sports affiliated activities, however; it also occurred in academic organizations and other school-sponsored groups. Additionally, girls were just as likely as boys to be hazed.4

Something must be done to put an end to this dangerous tradition. The results of the Alfred survey provide strong evidence to support the enactment of stricter state anti-hazing laws that provide harsh penalties for those guilty of hazing. Such anti-hazing laws are necessary to convey the message that hazing is socially unacceptable and will not be tolerated. In addition to stricter laws, students must also be educated about hazing and its consequences. IMAGE FORMULA6

II. What is Hazing?

The definition of hazing varies from state to states California, for example, defines it as an activity required of a student for "initiation or pre-initiation into a student organization, pastime or amusement which causes or is likely to cause bodily danger, physical harm or personal degradation or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm.6In Arkansas, on the other hand, hazing does not include athletic events, contests or competitions, but "is limited to those actions taken and situations created in connection with initiation into or affiliation with any organization."7

Activities considered to be hazing include threats of social ostracism; submitting a student to ignominy, shame or disgrace among his/her fellow students; and playing abusive or truculent tricks! Colorado has banned forced activities including, but not limited to, prolonged activity; consumption of food, beverages, medications or controlled substances in quantities beyond what is normal for human consumption; and consumption of substances not generally intended for human consumption.9 Other physical aspects of hazing include beating, whipping, branding, electronic shock, placing harmful substances on the body, confinement in small spaces, and deprivation of sleep, food or drink. 10

111. Stricter State Anti-Hazing Laws are Needed

When asked for recommendations on how to stop hazing, 61% of the students responding to the Alfred survey recommended strong discipline for hazing, and 10% of the students recommended other means of preventing hazing, including strict rules for enforcement, jail time, expulsion, or other harsh punishments." States need to respond to these concerns by projecting an attitude of zero tolerance for hazing behavior through the adoption of anti-hazing laws providing for harsh penalties, not only by the criminal justice system but also IMAGE FORMULA11IMAGE FORMULA12by educational institutions themselves. Furthermore, the laws must be made applicable to high school as well as college students. There must be penalties for those who participate in or witness hazing but fail to report it, and states should not consider consent of the victim to be a defense to hazing. …

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