In colleges and high schools around the country, hazing has become a central issue involving students, athletic teams, and fraternities, and sororities. Recently, Ohio news outlets have been filled with stories of hazing incidents, including the tragic death of a Bowling Green State University student which allegedly resulted from drinking during a fraternity event. This has put enormous pressure on educational institutions and law enforcement to act swiftly in investigating students for hazing violations. Accordingly, there has been a widespread effort by schools around the country to curb hazing and the serious consequences that can result. During this time of year, with the school year winding down and many milestones taking place, students may find themselves celebrating at off-campus gatherings. These types of gatherings, especially where alcohol is present, have become a significant source of hazing and other student misconduct allegations. Whether these events occur on-campus or off-campus, schools are on a mission to deter hazing, and to punish students involved in hazing. Today, more than ever, students are being severely disciplined for their roles in alleged hazing incidents, regardless of their level of involvement in the incident.
In the high school setting, allegations of hazing are also taken extremely seriously, often resulting in a rapid and severe response by administration without some of the procedural safeguards expected from colleges and universities. As a result, significant punishment may be given without proper process. This is especially true with private institutions, which are given extraordinary deference by courts reviewing disciplinary decisions. However, whether public or private, every school must follow their student code of conduct and/or student handbook when investigating and disciplining students for all misconduct allegations, including hazing. Public schools must also afford students due process in disciplinary proceedings. While a private school’s disciplinary proceedings are not subject to Constitutionally protected due process, the principles of fundamental fairness, as well as the educational contract entered into between the school and student.
Allegations of hazing, as well as subsequent sanctions or findings of responsibility, may have a prolonged effect on a students’ academic and personal life. The actions taken by a school may hinder a student’s ability to graduate, pursue higher education, or find employment. Because of this, it is crucial that a student’s rights and interests are protected throughout every phase of the process.
Experienced counsel can help a student accused of hazing, or other student conduct violations, navigate the allegations and ensure that they have been provided a fair process. This includes analyzing whether public schools are providing students with due process, and whether private schools are complying with the principles of fundamental fairness and their contractual obligations, as well as challenging the evidence and conducting an external investigation.
If you have questions regarding a student’s rights in school disciplinary proceedings, or you have been accused of or sanctioned for, hazing, please call Friedman Nemecek & Long, L.L.C., in Cleveland, Ohio for a free initial consultation. Our experienced attorneys are prepared and ready to help you with any issues pertaining to hazing accusations and sanctions, as well as any other school disciplinary questions.