Last Updated on July 16, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Do you remember entering high school and the wild rumors that preceded it; of groups of high schoolers who would submit all freshman to hazing: humiliating them and torturing them if they were caught alone? I do. I was in fear probably through the last half of my eighth grade year, and of course the first week in high school.
Luckily, the rumored “hazing” never happened, but what if it did? Would I have told? Not likely. What if I joined some school team and was put through strange student rituals involving eating disgusting items, having student clothing items removed, sitting for long periods tied to a chair or locked in a closet? What then? Nothing unless the school found out and then all hell would break loose.
Legal Definition of Hazing in Schools
Education Code section 48900(q)provides California schools with the authority to suspend or expel students who haze other students. If a student “engaged in, or attempted to engage in, hazing,” suspension or expulsion may proceed.
“Hazing” is defined as:
[A] method of initiation or preinitation into a pupil organization or body, whether or not the organization or body is officially recognized by an educational institution, which is likely to cause serious bodily injury or personal degradation or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm to a former, current, or prospective pupil.
Specifically excluded as hazing, is a student having to participate in “athletic events or school- sanctioned events.”
What is interesting in the definition is student hazing can occur in a school or non-school group, meaning there are a broad range of student activities covered. For example, a clique of students which requires members to do degrading things to “prove themselves” to join the group, could fall into the prohibited hazing category.
Who hasn’t heard of school hazing going on? Didn’t we all grow up daring students to do things and testing their bravery? Could this be considered to be hazing? The problem with hazing offenses is their secrecy and the lack of reporting until things get way out of hand. Initiation rituals for a football team or other school group do occur, but who tells? Not many students.
Hazing Can End Very Badly
In fact, students are likely scared to death to tell as they may be ostracized for life (high school = life). Instead, students sit and take it; take the abuse, taunts, and cruel treatment to “belong.”
Sometimes hazing makes headlines, when a student kills themselves after humiliation, or are only exposed after a student is injured and sent to the hospital as a result of hazing.
Hazing conduct may also get recategorized as student harassment, bullying, sexual battery or assault. I have seen inappropriate student locker room activities end in expulsion, not under “hazing,” but rather as sexual offenses.
Parents Can Report Hazing
Parents need to be aware hazing occurs and that not only can students be disciplined, suspended or even expelled for “making another boy eat dirt,” or “insisting that a student drink 2 cans of beer,” but that hazing could be occurring to a student right under parents’ noses.
It is critical that parents stay alert to potential hazing so students don’t end up in the hospital or expelled, as a result of a hazing prank gone bad, for the student or for someone else.
[Originally posted September 8, 2014]
Student lawyer Michelle Ball has helped students since the 1990s. As a Sacramento education attorney, she can assist in all corners of California, such as Riverside, Santa Ana, Long Beach, Auburn, Roseville, San Francisco, and other locations.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.