State lawmakers are considering beefing up Ohio’s anti-hazing statute to cover behavior beyond the initiation period.
State Sen. Kevin Bacon, R-Westerville, said that current law is too narrow because the definition of hazing is limited to abuse that occurs only during the initiation.
“Often times, people do not stop being victims of hazing once they complete their initiation, yet the current definition does not reflect that reality,” Bacon said in a written release. He introduced a bill on Tuesday to update the anti-hazing law. “Those who perpetrate hazing crimes should continue to be held accountable, and I hope to see this loophole closed in a timely manner.”
Bacon’s bill seeks to increase the criminal penalty for hazing to a first degree misdemeanor, up from a fourth degree misdemeanor. It would also apply to hazing activity related to affirming, continuing or reinstating membership in an organization.
Hazing in high school and college is widespread, according to StopHazing.org, which says 47 percent of students report that they are hazed before they enter college and 3 in 5 college students are subject to hazing.
The practices — excessive drinking, heavy drug use, dangerous stunts, sleep deprivation, sex acts — can lead to physical or mental trauma or even death.
In September, the family of a Penn State student who died after a night of heavy drinking at a fraternity settled its lawsuit against Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
In June, the University of Dayton settled a lawsuit brought by a former football player over hazing allegations.
In February, Miami University suspended all fraternity activities on campus in response to reports of hazing.
And in November 2017, Ohio State University suspended all social, recruitment and new member activities for all 37 fraternities on campus.
Wright State University expelled seven of nine men’s tennis team members and cancelled the spring 2016 season over hazing allegations.