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Bullying in the 2010s: By 2012, 44 US States Had Anti-Hazing Laws; Why Not All?
Legal Specialty: School and Fraternity Hazing
Bullying in school, in the workplace, in churches and clubs, as well as in other societal venues reached such proportions in the 2000s as to require a new legal specialty in America.
One of the newest legal specialties for the 21st Century besides Outer Space Law is that of School and Fraternity Hazing Law.
As in all forms of "power over" bullying, the admonition to a target of today's hazing expressed as "Get over it!" is in itself abusive and inappropriate - and useless to the family when the target is dead. Hazing caused deaths in America even before the 2000s, before the 1900s, but we heard little of it or ignored it.
Punching, hitting, and beatings have never been part of the standard approved musical and marching training programs of high school or college marching bands. They has never been part of the approved training curriculum for a drum major's and majorette's squad. Why, then, are these things permitted and to the extent that a band member died in 2011? Moreover, why are physical abuses in a college band, of all places, permitted in states that have anti-hazing laws on the books?
The rise of binge drinking and drinking games on college campuses has also led to deaths among young people and these increases have paralleled increased frequency and magnitude of physical hazings on campuses. While some administrations are active in stopping these activities, others don't seem to feel able to intervene - at least that how it looks to the public.
I was in a high school marching band while America was still in the Cold War and Vietnam. Up through my senior year, I had never seen a single instance of hazing. I had been at every practice session and after practices, band members went home, because our band director was very strict. There would be no hanging around after practice, after a football game, or after any performance, and there would be no hazing. If any hazing occurred, the rest of us knew nothing of it.
One day after a 3-hour marching practice, band members walked inside the school to use the drinking fountain and the seniors began hassling a few sophomores at the front of the line. The seniors took a pompous attitude and told the younger members first that sophomores were not permitted to use the drinking fountain at all, and then backed up and said that they had to go to the end of the line of over 80 people.
Because this was 1) abusive and 2) time wasting, I (a senior and usually quiet) began shouting and the other startled seniors gave up their taunts. The band director learned of the incident and ensured that nothing similar occurred; he'd been in the US Military during wartime and likely experienced or saw hazing and would have none of it.
My confusion involved why the seniors began taunting the sophomores, when no such taunting or hazing had been allowed toward them for three years in this high school. The administration had zero tolerance of hazing.
One of our Sousaphone players may have had a binge drinking problem. He sneaked beer onto the band bus on the way to football games and concerts. The band director caught him by surprise on one trip and suspended him from the band for several weeks. I don't know how wide spread drinking was among these high schools students at the time, but I sense that many were afraid of being sent to Vietnam and drank to numb those fears. Our Sousaphone player did serve in Vietnam and lost his life just four months into his tour of duty. His name is on the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial wall in Washington DC.
Those years were fearsome for many young men in this country and fear may have led to binge drinking, or not. Still, I could find no reason for seniors, female and male, that had never been hazed, beginning to haze younger students. The females had no fears of going to Vietnam to channel into hazing, neither were these young women dating or engaged to young men who were afraid - nor had they any relatives that had been in Vietnam. The hazers included dozens of young people, all seniors, in the band. I never figured the cause of the sudden pompous attitudes and hazing. Still, it was caught and stopped immediately at the time. This is not happening today.
Six Hold-Out States
The Philippines enacted anti-hazing legislation and of the 50 US States, six still had not enacted anti-hazing laws in 2012. Which states were these?
The six hold-out states were:
- The newest states, Alaska and Hawaii.
- The western states of Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Wyoming
The Anti-Hazing Hotline for Fraternites and Sororities
(888) NOT-HAZE, or (888) 668-4293
If you think that you or other students have been or may become victims of hazing, call anonymously or provide personal information for help. The Anti-Hazing Hotline leads to a separate voice mailbox of Cincinnati attorney Manley Burke, the publisher of Fraternal Law, a law journal about legal issues at Greek organizations and in higher education overall. Mr. Burke forwards all messages to the appropriate fraternal organization, along with the relevant hazing laws.
Florida Hazing Death
The FAMU Marching "100" marched in the 44th US President's Inauguration Parade. This was the parade to honor Barack Obama in 2009.
Unfortunately, one of the Marching 100's band members was beaten to death in a 2011 hazing stunt, despite anti-hazing laws being active in Florida. A young person went to college, joined the marching band by passing auditions and was killed for his efforts - not murder, precisely, but an initiation gone bad and charged as murder.
The death the young band member opened up a series of reports from the band and staff about continuing abuse and hazing, past and present. These had been kept a secret. However, May 2012 saw the resignations of two faculty persons during an official investigation of the hazing reports. A total of 13 people were charged with felony or misdemeanor hazing violations. In fact, the hazing death of the Marching 100's Drum Major Robert Champion was declared a homicide - murder (References: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/trending-now/y-big-story-hazing-rites-gone-wrong-220011889.html and http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16229230).
This was not the first case of inordinate physical harm coming to a new member of the Marching 100. Previously, a new female member of the band was beaten to such an extent that one of her thigh bones was fractured and she was unable to participate in any marching that season. One must wonder whether this beating was the usual initiation or aimed at disabling this particular band member as an individual or aimed at disabling a female band member per se. Champion's death has been repeatedly reported as not related to his sexual orientation.
Whatever a group's traditions or hazing rituals, physical attack of any sort against new members is out of line. Physical attack in any instance that is not part of last-resort self defense or the defense of family, friends, and property is unnecessary. An attack against a person that will march with a band for only four years and likely will never march nor play an instrument again is totally unconscionable.
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
I don't see hazing as fun, certainly not the results ending in maiming and death. However, hazing has been a part of groups for as long as the US has been operating. Schools, military groups, fraternal organizations, clubs, gangs, workplace groups, and many others have held - and still hold - hazing rituals with or without the knowledge and tacit acceptance of various authorities.
In 2012, the Marching 100 were suspended for at least a full year, unable and permitted to march. This ended a good tradition -- The marching band that honored President of the United States Barack Obama and many dignitaries and occasions in the past was suspended for killing one of its members.
Even though 44 US States and 1 Protectorate have anti-hazing laws, efforts need be directed toward enforcing these laws consistently.
In states that have no hazing laws, as well as in those that do have them, individuals and families can stand against hazing by refusing to participate in it as either perpetrators or recipients. Potential recipients can refuse to remain members and if attacked, can report to legal authorities and take whatever legal action is permitted. The prestige of membership in any group is not worth the price of physical attack, physical hardship, or death. To end deaths and permanent physical disabilities resulting from hazing, all hazing should be eliminated.
Some of the public criticizes the movement in America to end hazing, hate speech, and similar activities. However, if these assaults are permitted upon anyone, then in time and with the natural spread of behaviors, they will be permitted against everyone.