Adding Teeth to Hazing Laws
Student hazing has a body count
Student hazing has a body count. In the last five years at the University of Texas alone, two students – Tyler Cross and Phanta "Jack" Phoummarath – died in hazing-related incidents, and eight fraternities are currently in disciplinary status for hazing offenses. Senate Bill 48, currently on the Senate intent calendar, attacks the legal defenses that have curtailed some criminal prosecutions. The bill, authored by Senate Higher Education Chair Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, clarifies the legal definition of hazing to include forced drinking and drug taking, allows prosecutors in both the school's home county and counties where hazing occurs to mount prosecutions, and changes the immunity rules so that students are no longer protected for reporting their own hazing activities. Zaffirini introduced a similar bill last session, but it died in the Senate Education Committee without a hearing. This time, her Higher Ed Committee voted SB 48 out 5-0 on March 23. She said the problem remains pressing, in spite of apathy in some quarters. "What do you say to people who say, 'We don't need a bill like this; boys will be boys'?" she asked. Her advice? Introduce them to someone who suffered hazing or lost a loved one.
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