If you’re the parent of a college student or one headed to college this year, you’ve likely heard horrible stories about hazing deaths. These often involve the consumption of toxic amounts of alcohol at fraternity parties.
You may have warned your child about becoming the victim of hazing, but you may never have considered that they could find themselves charged with hazing or related offenses. Alcohol, drugs and peer pressure, however, are a powerful combination. College kids who have never so much as faced detention in school can get caught up in a prank or pledge activity that goes horribly wrong.
While hazing rituals often involve actions that are illegal (like underage alcohol consumption or illegal drug use), more and more states are making hazing itself a crime. Georgia is one of those states. Sadly, as with many laws, it’s named after a victim. The young man it’s named for died from alcohol poisoning in 2017 after a fraternity hazing in another state.
What does Georgia law say?
Georgia law defines hazing as “an activity which endangers or is likely to endanger the physical health of a student, or coerces the student…to consume any food, liquid, alcohol, drug, or other substance” that will probably make them intoxicated and/or cause them to pass out or throw up “regardless of a student’s willingness to participate in such activity.” The law recognizes that the coercion doesn’t have to be actual physical coercion but can be “social” pressure.
Georgia’s law also requires all colleges and universities to have written policies for reporting and investigating hazing and to publish information about any hazing incidents involving their students on their website for a minimum of five years. This information can be valuable to prospective students and their parents.
As we noted, hazing is often associated with young fraternity men. However, it also takes place on sports teams and clubs. It can involve women as well as men.
If your child is facing hazing or hazing-related charges, you may be tempted to let them deal with the justice system on their own. If someone was harmed or killed, however, the potential consequences are serious. Even a hazing conviction on its own can affect their education and their future. Having experienced legal guidance can help protect their rights.