HARRISBURG – Legislation requiring secondary schools in Pennsylvania to adopt policies and procedures to prevent and correct hazing recently was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf and will go into effect on July 25.
House Bill 1574, sponsored by state Rep. Ron Marsico, amended Pennsylvania’s Anti-Hazing Law of 1986, which was only relevant to institutions of higher education and had not been changed since its enactment.
Wolf said that the “expansion of the current anti-hazing law…is a huge step in keeping Pennsylvania students protected from bullying and abuse.”
Legislation for the law, which was supported by lawmakers on both sides of the political fence, gained momentum after an alleged hazing incident at Conestoga High School that resulted in three students being charged with assault.
According to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, the three football players are accused of sodomizing a teammate with a broomstick as part of a brutal hazing practice. Reports state that the three 17-year-olds allegedly held down a 14-year-old teammate who refused to participate in another hazing ritual, stripped off his underwear and penetrated his anus with a broomstick handle in the locker room.
Coaches allegedly did not know the hazing was going on.
“The bill was prompted by recent stories regarding hazing in secondary school settings, particularly with respect to sports teams, as well as recent research from anti-hazing advocacy groups that shows 47 percent of high school students experience hazing,” Michael Galey, an attorney at Fisher and Phillips in Philadelphia, told the Pennsylvania Record.
Under the new law, secondary schools are required to undertake several steps to address hazing issues in schools. The anti-hazing laws previously in place for colleges and universities will also apply to high schools and middle schools from grades seven to 12.
The governing board of all Pennsylvania school districts are now also required to write out specific guidelines for their schools.
The amended text of the new hazing law reads: “Each institution and each governing board of a secondary school shall adopt a written anti-hazing policy and, pursuant to that policy, shall adopt rules prohibiting students or other persons associated with any organization…from engaging in any activity which can be described as hazing.”
Other important amendments in the law include prohibited hazing behaviors apply to any person and not just students; anti-hazing policies must be posted on institutions' websites; and expulsion is a possible penalty for hazing.
“Children need to feel safe during the school day, as well as after school, in order to achieve the highest educational success," Wolf said. "This bill will allow schools (to) take necessary steps to help ensure that.”