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When hazing goes too far, will your child face charges?

If your son is a student at the Pennsylvania State University or any other institute of higher learning, you may be exceedingly proud of him for his efforts and successes, or you may be hoping that something will click for him next semester and he will buckle down and get to work. Either way, you are likely aware that this is a time of growth and opportunity for your child, and he is learning and doing things that go beyond lectures and study groups.

In fact, if your son has pledged to a fraternity, you may have mixed emotions. Your experiences in a fraternity or sorority introduced you to friends you may still cherish and incidents you may still reminisce and laugh about. However, you know too well that it's a different world. The highly publicized tragedies that involved fraternities at Penn State and other universities have cast a shadow over the Greek community. Because of this, your son's future may be at risk.

The dangers of hazing

A new tone regarding fraternities exists across campuses and within law enforcement. Less often do college administrations and the criminal justice system turn a blind eye to hazing and its often-dangerous consequences. What you may have seen once as acceptable frat house behavior - the antics of your favorite classic comedies - many now see as criminal activities. Hazing, in particular, is in the spotlight following numerous alcohol-fueled deaths across the country. You may have heard about some of the following accusations:

  • Forcing pledges to drink alcohol excessively, usually as punishment or to teach a lesson
  • Providing alcohol to students who are underage
  • Distributing and using illegal drugs
  • Organizing rituals involving risky behavior or in dangerous locations
  • Physically assaulting pledges
  • Sexual assaulting pledges or women visitors to the frat house

Recently, attention has focused on such incidents that resulted in the deaths of pledges from alcohol poisoning, injuries from falling, drowning while intoxicated and fatal injuries from alleged physical abuse. Of course, hazing does not occur only in fraternities. You may have heard reports of similar incidents in sports teams, marching bands and other organizations.

Hazing is a crime

While hazing itself is a misdemeanor in Pennsylvania and most other states, your child may face a felony charge if he is involved in a ritual during which someone is injured. Additionally, the increasing number of deaths resulting from excessive drinking is bringing more severe charges related to the incidents, including involuntary manslaughter charges.

However, even if things don't get out of hand, colleges and universities claim to be taking a hard stand against alcohol infractions such as binge drinking and underage drinking, and this could jeopardize your son's future if he takes part. If your son is a member of a fraternity facing hazing charges or is accused of alcohol offenses or other infractions, you will undoubtedly want to protect his rights and his future by seeking legal counsel.

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