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5 Best Practices to Consider When Implementing Hazing Prevention Initiatives [Youth and High School Sports Best Practices Alert (First Quarter 2015)]

Author: Justin P. Sievert (Senior Counsel)

It is common for high schools and youth sports organizations to have policies and procedures in place to inform students about the dangers of hazing. However, reports of hazing incidents are still occurring with alarming frequency, which calls for institutions to review their policies and procedures to ensure they are implementing the types of prevention initiatives that will have a significant impact on student behavior. As a result, here are five best practices high schools and youth sports organizations should consider when developing hazing prevention initiatives:

  • Understanding Hazing: An activity that constitutes hazing can be very difficult to define. When evaluating an activity, some points to consider are: (1) is there a risk of physical or emotional harm; (2) is the activity mandatory; (3) is the activity required for a specified group; and (4) is alcohol involved. Additionally, a simple way to look at an activity is whether you would have any reservation explaining the activity to your family, coaches or other institutional officials.
  • Have a Policy: Having a hazing policy is the first step in defining what is and what is not acceptable conduct. Additionally, a policy will help provide consistency in how alleged misconduct is handled.
  • Understand the Applicable Laws: Nearly all states now have anti-hazing laws. It is important you understand what the law is in the state where your institution is located. This law will identify what constitutes hazing in your state and will also outline reporting procedures and other expectations/requirements of your institution.
  • Have a Confidential Reporting Process: Institutions must have reporting mechanisms to allow students to report, in detail, any alleged misconduct. This process should include both a confidential option that would allow for anonymous reporting and telephone numbers/emails that would allow for direct reporting. Additionally, the institution’s public safety office contact information should be listed for incidents requiring immediate assistance.
  • Educate on the Consequences: Hazing incidents can result in legal action, institutional disciplinary action and team action against accused. It is essential that all students understand any misconduct will be met with consequences.

Contact Justin P. Sievert (954-941-1844; jsievert@bucknersportslaw.com) for more information pertaining to developing hazing prevention initiatives at your high school or in your organization.