How Can I Fight Back Against High School and College Sports Hazing?
In previous posts on our website, we have presented data that is meant
to call attention to the physical and emotional dangers of "hazing"
by college social organizations such as fraternities and sororities.
In today's post, the sports hazing lawyer at the
Doan Law Firm will first explain what is meant by "hazing" before giving examples
of how hazing has become something of a "rite of passage" in
amateur athletics at the high school and college levels. He will then
review some of the legal strategies that may be useful if your son or
daughter has been a victim of such practices.
What is "hazing?"
According to the
National Federation of State High School Associations,
any humiliating or dangerous activity expected of a student to belong to
a group, regardless of their willingness to participate… Some practices
associated with high school hazing carry the potential for serious bodily
harm or even death. These practices may include: tattooing, piercing,
head-shaving, branding, sleep deprivation, physical punishment (paddling
and "red-bellying"), "kidnapping," consuming unreasonable/unacceptable
foods or beverages, being deprived of personal hygiene and/or inappropriate
Coerced sexual activity, in addition to being classified as sexual assault and/or rape, is another
form of hazing. Such activity puts victims at risk for injuries, sexually
transmitted diseases, and pregnancy.
Alcohol abuse is another significant factor in hazing incidents that feature forced
consumption of large amounts of alcohol. [Emphasis added]
In a landmark study,
Initiation Rites in American High Schools: A National Survey (Alfred University, 2000), the authors discovered that:
- 48% of students belonging to groups or teams reported being subjected to
hazing, with 30% knowingly performing potentially illegal acts.
25% of those who reported being hazed said that the hazing took place,
or began, prior to their 13th birthday
- practically all students surveyed did not distinguish "fun" from
Given the number of reported incidents that could be reasonably described
as "hazing" or "hazing-related," the findings of the
above-cited study seem to have fallen on the "deaf ears" of
those adults given the responsibilities of protecting our children and
serving as role models to a generation of impressionable minds.
What are my options if my child was injured during sports hazing?
In many incidents that were later documented as sports hazing, the injured child
was not the person who made the formal complaint to school and/or police officials
that their injuries were deliberately inflicted by their peers.
If you, as a parent or guardian of a child who was injured as a result
of hazing, wish to protect your child from those who seem to think that
violence is necessary to "belong," you have three options available to you:
- File criminal charges
- File a civil lawsuit
File both criminal charges
and a civil lawsuit
These options are explained in the following sections.
File criminal charges
Since many of the acts typically done to a hazing victim involve force,
or the threat of physical harm if the victim does not comply, such acts
are usually prohibited by your state's criminal code (the laws that
define what you
can't do). Although the exact procedures will vary from state to state, the
basics of making a
criminal complaint are roughly the same.
complaint is made to a law enforcement official, the complaint is investigated.
If that investigation suggests that a crime has been committed, the findings
from the investigation can be used to arrest those believed to have the
crime. Eventually, the case will be presented in court and a verdict based
on the evidence presented will be returned and, if a verdict of
guilty is returned, the guilty party can be sentenced to a period of time in jail, a
fine, or a combination of jail time and a fine.
File a civil lawsuit
As mentioned above, in a criminal conviction a court will usually order
the guilty party to pay a sum of money known as a
fine>. When a fine is paid, that money
does not go to the victim of the crime but instead goes to the court which accepts
the fine on behalf of the state. In a civil lawsuit, any damages awarded
(minus attorney fees and court costs) go to the
File both criminal charges
and a civil lawsuit
Many parents are unaware of the fact that it is possible for criminal charges
and a civil lawsuit to move through the courts at the same time. In fact,
this is a relatively common maneuver when the available information supports both a
criminal charge as well as a civil lawsuit that asks a court to award damages in
order to punish the guilty party as well as to compensate the victim.
In most cases involving any type of hazing, a sports hazing injury lawyer
will recommend that both criminal charges
and a civil lawsuit be pursued.
Contacting a sports hazing injury lawyer
If there was ever a valid reason to justify hazing of
any type, athletic or otherwise, the logic behind that reason has long since
been shown to be wrong. Unfortunately, there are still those holding positions
of authority who see hazing as "character-building" or "just
clean fun." As you have seen, the only way to end hazing is to make
it too expensive to be allowed to continue. The most effective way to
make hazing too expensive is by filing a lawsuit against those that allow
hazing to happen.
When you work with the sports hazing injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm,
we will keep your child's identity (as well as yours) confidential
in accordance with both state law and the ethics of the attorney / client
relationship. This means that we
will not disclose any information about your case unless ordered to do so by the
court or without your consent.
We also realize that most families do not have to the resources that are
necessary to fully investigate a sports hazing case. At our firm, we are
willing to assume full responsibility (including financial) for all aspects
of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a previously-agreed-upon
percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.