By Julie Bawden-Davis
It’s insidious and often hidden, but chances are it’s occurring at your school. Hazing, which refers to circumstances that harass, embarrass, ridicule or put a student at risk emotionally or physically, is a more common on-campus occurrence than you might expect.
According to Hazing Prevention.org, two in five college, middle and high school students report hazing occurring in their schools. Alfred University estimates that 1.5 million U.S. high school students undergo hazing each year.
Considering the prevalence of hazing and its harmful, even deadly potential, it’s important that your school adopts an anti-hazing program in order to protect the welfare of your students and school. A Supreme Court ruling in 1999 in the case of Davis vs. Monroe County Board of Education ruled that schools are responsible for harassment occurring between students if the school faculty and leadership react with “deliberate indifference.”
Follow these steps to creating an anti-hazing program at your school.
1. Put Your Anti-Hazing Policy in Writing
Ensure that your school has an official statement that specifically states that hazing is strictly forbidden at your school. Outline the nature of hazing and the various actions that could be considered hazing. Make it clear in the policy that all such actions are not allowed under any circumstances.
2. Develop an Anti-Hazing Culture Among School Leadership
Students take cues from school leadership when it comes to acceptable and appropriate behavior. When a teacher ignores hazing, students could construe it as acceptance of the behavior. Meet with faculty and staff and let them know that they are responsible for identifying, diffusing and discouraging any potential hazing amongst students. Make it clear that faculty members are liable and face disciplinary action if they choose to ignore hazing behavior.
Encourage school leaders to speak out against hazing. Instruct them to let students know that the practice is unacceptable and could lead to expulsion and even arrest. Suggest that those individuals in charge of the anti-hazing campaign share with students hazing examples that resulted in injury or death and arrests for those students involved. Many such cases have hit the news in recent years, including the February 2015 arrest of two West Virginia University fraternity members charged in the November 2014 hazing death of a fellow student.
3. Provide Students With Anti-Hazing Educational Materials
Include in the school handbook, on the website, in flyers and other handout materials, information about hazing and instructions to students regarding what to do if they find themselves or see other students being hazed. Describe potential situations in the materials so that students learn to recognize hazing if it occurs.
4. Hold Anti-Hazing School-Wide Events
On an annual or semi-annual basis, present anti-hazing education events on campus, such as school assemblies. Use these outreach opportunities to explain what hazing is and how harmful the results of this activity can be. Outline what students should do if they see hazing occurring and be clear about how students caught hazing will be disciplined. A good time to hold anti-hazing events is during National Hazing Prevention Week, which occurs each September.
Hazing is a harmful practice that can lead to unhappy students and senseless tragedy. Protect your students, faculty and staff by implementing an anti-hazing program.
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